Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Being in community when our Gods are different

This autumn, I had the privilege to attend Rhiannon Grant's workshop "Or Whatever You Call It" with F/friends from South East Scotland Area Meeting (Quakers).  It was an interesting and fun workshop, and I'm glad we brought it to SESAM.

Much of Grant's work with Quakers centres on how modern Friends use language to talk about That-Which-Is-Sacred, and is particularly informed by philosophy.  My work amongst Friends starts from experience, and then comes to language pretty quickly: we need language to reflect our experience, to be able to talk to each other about it, one way to be in spiritual community with each other.  And Quakers are very wordy, very language-oriented people.  So her approach was really interesting for me.  

After spending the day in different kinds of exercises, thinking and talking about different words, and what they mean, and why, and different names for Whatever You Call It, we settled into large-group worship-sharing with this query:

Does telling your truth require you to use any particular words? 

Quite a lot came bubbling up for me during this worship.


In order to be a faithful Friend, {my truth requires me to / Goddess requires me to / I must} use words some Friends often react to with hostility.  Goddess.  Witch.  Pagan.  Priestess.  Gods.  But other minority Friends, especially other Pagan and non-Christian Friends, are often very relieved to hear those words.

If I am speaking my own truth, in my own words, not translating into other people's words / language, then yes, it does require particular words.

To what extent are we obligated to translate as we speak?  As we listen?  Why am I so often, as a minority, the person expected to do both?

I, as a non-Christian Friend, am expected to be conversant about Jesus.  Why aren't other Friends expected to be conversant with other Gods?

Yes, well, Quakerism is also historically white and straight as well.

Gods, plural.  If you want me to take your relationship with Jesus, Spirit, God, Whatever You Call It, seriously, and I want you to take my relationship with the Goddess / the Gods seriously, we both have to allow as how they both might exist -- and are not the same.


Among Friends, I no longer have to pretend my wife is a man and I'm in a mixed-gender relationship.  I no longer have to translate into heterosexual marriage terms for other Friends.

I should not have to pretend I'm in relationship with a different Deity than the One(s) I am in relationship with, either.

If you want me to take your relationship with Jesus, Spirit, God, Whatever You Call It, seriously, then you need to take my relationship with the Goddess / the Gods seriously.  

Brigid is not Jesus in a skirt.  And the Cailleach is neither.

I am talking about radical equality.

Jesus is a privileged god in Quakerism.

Jesus cannot be a privileged god if we are all Friends and all Friends are equal.

What does radical equality ask of each of us when it comes to being present with, bearing witness to, each others' spiritual lives?  When it comes to being in spiritual community with one another?  

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Suicide prevention, support, and resources

There is an excellent and timely post by dualitea at Tenure, She Wrote, about the increase in suicide attempts after highly-publicized suicide deaths.  The article includes resources for talking about suicide and supporting people who are struggling. 

It's helpful.  Please read it.  Thank you. 
Research has shown that there is an uptick in the number of suicide attempts following a highly publicized suicide death. Such has happened recently within the trans community, which is prompting this off-day post. Given that 41% of trans people have attempted suicide, right now would be an excellent time to reach out and support the trans people in your life, as well as brush up on your skill set of responding to [those] in crisis who confide in you.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The queer surcharge

Let's talk about the queer surcharge for a moment. 

Here's just one example: 

People in mixed-gender legal marriages, how much did it cost you to get married?  I don't mean the ceremony, the reception, and all that stuff -- I mean the marriage license, the legal part, where you went down to city hall or the registry office or wherever and filled out paperwork and got a piece of paper (or several) back.  How much did your marriage license cost?  If a ceremony was a legal requirement for your marriage license to be valid -- it is in some jurisdictions -- then go ahead and add in the cost of a registry office, or justice of the peace, or similar, ceremony. 

Now, how many marriage licenses, or equivalent, have you had to obtain for your current marriage?  For that one marriage, for you to be married to the same person? 

Most of your friends in same-gender marriages, when we've had access to legal recognition of our relationships at all -- through domestic partnerships, civil unions, civil partnerships, or even civil marriage -- have had to do this many times.  Each time we move, each time the law where we live changes, we have to get re-married. 

And it almost always costs money EACH TIME. 

That adds up. 

And we're not even talking about the costs in time, energy, and resources other than money. 

We're also not even talking about other ways which being someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer costs more money than being someone who is straight does. 

So, allies: something to think about.  Ignorance -- "Gosh, I had no idea!"-- is not an excuse. 


For more information on having to get married over and over and on the queer surcharge, see:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Ally behavior: Pagan organizations, where are you?

Re-posted from Crystal Blanton (via Facebook):

I am noticing... again... the silence of the Pagan organizations in light of the recent unrest, death of unarmed black men, injustices, protests, and harm within society. As a POC Pagan, I am looking out into my community and I do not see the community standing up for me.

This is an opportunity to stand up and support the people of color within the Pagan community, and society, by saying... we see you. We are not ignoring you, we are not staying silent.

When the Pagan community does not stand up to support the POC members within their community that are hurting, it is an "in your face" way of reminding us that we are not welcomed.

An African Zulu greeting "Sawubona" translates to mean... I see you. More than the normal seeing.... seeing the core, our humanity, our spirit, our worth... our souls.

So tonight I am saying to the Pagan community, I see you..... the question is... do you SEE us?


Black lives matter.  Pagan organizations are predominantly white, and they need to speak up. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Winter Solstice 2014

I have just update the list of communities presenting A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual this year, including:

  • Edinburgh, Scotland; 
  • Costa Mesa, CA; 
  • Indianapolis, IN; 
  • Louisville, KY (new this year! w00t!); 
  • Pomona/Galloway, NJ; 
  • Dallas, TX;
  • and hopefully Hamilton, NJ, Gettysburg, PA, Clemson, SC, Spokane, WA, and Madison, WI. (I'm still waiting to hear back from some folks.)

Details at

If your community is presenting this and you're not listed, please get in touch!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thank you again to SheWho

Way back in 2002, SheWho feminist women's vocal ensemble recorded the CD for "A Winter Solstice Singing Ritual" for me and my co-author. It was a one-off for them -- not part of their musical life long-term -- but it took a lot of their time and energy. That CD has certainly been part of my life long-term, and as I'm doing a lot of intensive teaching of this music right now, I find myself again grateful for all the time and work those eight women put into our project. There are of course things I'd do differently, mostly thanks to what I learned by doing this CD, but the CD has definitely stood the test of time as a fabulous resource for people learning this music. Thank you again, Karen Escovitz (Otter), Amanda Albright, Anne Cummings, Debra D'Alessandro, Gili Ronen, Hilary Barrett, and Juliet Spitzer.

For more information about SheWho -- or to order their fabulous independent CD, "The Earth Will Turn Over" -- please see:

Friday, November 28, 2014

Trans Lifeline and other crisis and suicide resources

There's a new hotline for transgender people in crisis, Trans Lifeline.  They've been open for a few months but just went public, and the response seems BIG.

If you've got a few bucks, even $5 or $10, please consider donating to them -- you can help save someone's life: http://www.gofundme.com/translifeline.

If you are struggling with suicide, please, talk to someone.  

  • In the US, anyone can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline free from anywhere at 1-800-273-TALK.   You can also livechat from their website, http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.
  • In the US, LGBT youth (ages 24 and younger) can also reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386.  You can also text or chat: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/pages/get-help-now#tt
  • In the US and Canada, transgender, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming people can also call the Trans Lifeline at (877) 565-8860.  Please see their website to confirm staffing times: http://www.translifeline.org/
  • In the UK, you can call the Samaritans anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on 08457 90 90 90. 
  • In Scotland, you can call the Breathing Space phoneline, which is available 24 hours at weekends (6pm Friday - 6am Monday), and 6pm - 2am on weekdays (Monday - Thursday), on 0800 83 85 87.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Survival and standing in our integrity, at Thanksgiving and every other day

There's an American holiday this month that is often associated with family.  I have been holding in my heart the too-many people I know and care about who are not welcome at their family Thanksgiving, or who are otherwise alienated or estranged from their families, born or chosen, for refusing to lie. For not pretending to be straight, for not pretending to be a gender they're not, for not tolerating abuse or harassment, for not pretending to be a religion they're not.

For living honestly and with integrity.

That integrity is often necessary for survival. Being alienated from our families may be the price we pay for our mental and physical health, but that alienation takes a toll in physical and mental health, too. The simple fact of that discrimination, that our families treat us that way, and the separation from our folks.

No one should ever have to choose between survival and our families. And too often, our families ask that of us. This shit is hard.

Our lives are worth that integrity.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Re-posting for Veterans Day / Armistice Day

It’s 3:45 am when my pager wakes me. I speak to a man who is quite upset: his sister has just died – at the end of a long illness, but unexpectedly soon – and his sister’s son is on active duty in the military, stationed overseas.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Let's talk about ally behavior, straight people edition

Dear people who say you're allies:  When you act like you know more about the reality of the lives of oppressed people than oppressed people do, and when you disbelieve our lived experience, that is NOT ally behavior and it's not helpful. 

I experience and witness this all the time, both in person and on line. 

In today's example, we're talking about: straight allies; lesbian, bisexual, gay, and queer people in same-sex relationships; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people whom straight people are likely to read as some version of queer.  

I was part of a conversation on social media recently that went something like this:

Original Poster (OP):
Re-posting for some friends: looking for safety tips for a lesbian couple traveling abroad, etc. 

Peanut Gallery (PG):
Examples from personal experience; on-line travel and legal resources, etc.  

Straight Person (SP): (Not their exact words)
This is so interesting; someone said traveling without displaying much PDA is safer, and I agree; whose business is it anyway what you do behind closed doors?; I usually travel with my husband, but it's not like people know he's my husband, he could be my brother, right?; I mean, it's not like we're making love in the street; of course gay couples don't want to have to hide that they're gay, and of course I respect that, but why prove you're a romantic couple instead of regular friends?; I traveled with an opposite-sex person I wasn't married to and someone asked us if we were married, and we said no, but if I was a lesbian should I have said that I was a lesbian?; people of the same sex travel together all the time; I traveled with a lesbian friend and shared a bed without having sex and I felt totally safe in terms of what other people thought; I'm just trying to figure all this out; I guess I'm just a little confused by all of this...

Here's what I did say, with link to a NY Times article about the Langbehn-Pond family's experience:
That's b/c you don't have to worry about things like being able to make decisions for each other should one of you become ill or be in an accident, that sort of thing. Or being prevented from seeing each other in the hospital b/c legally you're not kin. Or your kids not being allowed to see you in the hospital when you're dying b/c the hospital staff have decided you aren't really their mother. These are the kinds of things people in same-sex relationships have to worry about all the time, even within the US.

There are also some places where women traveling without a man are harassed b/c they are perceived as not being under a man's protection and therefore fair to harass.

I didn't even get into the more 'ordinary' forms of anti-queer harassment.  LIKE GETTING BEAT UP JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE PEGS YOU AS SOME VERSION OF QUEER. 

SP's response (again, not their exact words):
We are talking about going on a trip, and I don't understand how that needs to include all these life issues; you're telling me that if you are an American in Europe and something happens to you they will not let your travel companion come into the hospital room with you; I find that hard to believe; I'm not talking about all the other issues that are part of this; JUST THE PART ABOUT TRAVELING ABROAD; that's what we're talking about.

Ummm, riiiiiight.

Things I did not say:

YOU'RE RIGHT!  We're MAKING THIS SHIT UP!  For FUN!  And OF COURSE you know so much more about this than all the queer people in this conversation!

Also, hello, "I'm a straight person let me make this conversation all about me and my experience and how unfathomable queer people's experience is."

Also, hello: a straight person turning this conversation from "What do I as an LGBTQ person need to do to stay safe when I travel?" to "I'm a straight person and I'm going to talk about my experience and how unbelievable your experience is" is not ally behavior.

What I did say:
Yeah. We're talking about going on a trip. Yeah, queer people have to worry about this shit. [Name], why would it even occur to you not to believe this is an issue queer people have to deal with? It seems hard to believe to you? I'm sorry your straight privilege makes the daily reality of our lives hard for you to believe. We don't have that luxury.

Let me just say right now that when OP came back to the conversation, they stated really clearly that disbelieving LGBTQ people about our experience was not okay with them. 

In a separate conversation about this in my space, people pointed out:
  • Has SP ever held hands with her husband in public while traveling?  Ever kissed him in public? 
  • Has she ever worried about someone bashing her upside the head for doing so?  Or simply because they thought she was straight?
  • Has she ever had to choose between safety and invisibility? 
  • Is kissing her husband or holding his hand where other people can see it "proving" they're a romantic couple instead of "regular" friends? 
  •  "I'm just trying to figure all this out" is a convenient line, but this person was displaying behavior that indicated she really didn't want to know: she wasn't listening to the lived experience of queer people, and she didn't believe what queer people told her.  What's more, she was insisting her thoughts, feelings, experience, and disbelief take center stage. Not the experience of LGBTQ people, hers.  This is derailing.  So is insisting members of a minority educate her.

Also, EXCUSE me?  The only queer people who get beaten when traveling are the ones who have sex in the street??  It's a very short step from the belief that people won't beat you for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer unless you're having sex and they witness it, to the belief that if someone beat you for being queer, you did something to provoke it and it's your fault

That is victim-blaming bullshit.  Victim-blaming bullshit is not ally behavior. 

SP talked about being in a same-sex romantic relationship vs being in a "regular" friendship, thus reinforcing the notion that same-sex romances and partnerships are not regular, are not normal, are deviant.

That is not ally behavior.

SP talked about her experience as a straight person in a heterosexual marriage and as a straight person traveling with another person of the same gender as if it were equivalent to queer people's experience.  As if it gave her the same understanding of queer people's experience in same-gender relationships, and as if it gave her the same understanding of being a queer person whom straight people read as queer.  SP made it clear she considered her experience as a straight person to be more valid in assessing LGBTQ safety than the experience of not just one LGBTQ person, but several, in the conversation.  (WTF?)

That is not ally behavior.

It's also derailing. 

Derailing is not ally behavior.

SP, who is straight, took over a conversation among LGBTQ people about their experience as LGBTQ people to talk about her experience as a straight person and to demand LGBTQ people educate her. 

That is derailing.  Derailing is not ally behavior. 

All of these behaviors are heterosexist.  Heterosexist behavior is not ally behavior.

For more information on derailing, I suggest these excellent resources listed here:

I want to talk about some of the aspects of this kind of behavior that bother me the most.  

1)  There are straight people who think of themselves as LGBTQ allies, but who have no clue about the lived experience of LGBTQ people.   

Who think it's all about same-sex marriage.  Who think same-sex marriage is nice, but have no idea why it's important -- know nothing about the additional tax burden of being in a same-sex relationship, know nothing about the legal threats to our families, know nothing about the spreadsheets we keep to track how many times laws in different states have required us to dissolve our legal relationships and then re-form them, know nothing about the health care threats, know nothing about second-parent adoption.  Who expect us to look and act like cis straight people.  Who chastise us when we look too masculine or too feminine, or kiss our partners in public.  Who have no clue that we can still be fired for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, or just never hired in the first place; denied a mortgage; stopped by the cops for walking down the street and arrested for prostitution if we have condoms in our possession; refused medical treatment, including in life-threatening emergencies; refused rental housing.

These things I mention?  They are the tip of the iceberg.  There is much, much more.   

If these surprise you, you're not paying attention, and you're not behaving like an ally.  If you think of yourself as an LGBTQ ally, you need to educate yourself about the lived reality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and genderqueer people.

And DON'T ask us to educate you.  It is your job as an ally to educate yourself.  There is plenty of good material out there by LGBTQ people for you to find.  Go find it. 

2)  There are straight people who like to think of themselves as LGBTQ allies, but who refuse to listen to that experience when we share it. 

When we tell you about our experience, believe it.  Don't tell us it's hard to for you to believe.  We live it.  Every day.  Our other LGBTQ siblings live it every day. 

When we tell you about our experience, don't change the focus back to you.  Don't talk about your experience as a straight person.  Don't tell us how your experience with something as a straight person means you understand our experience as a queer person. 

Believe what we tell you, however we tell you -- in person, in writing, in documentaries, in music, in theatre, etc.  We have all sorts of ways we talk about our experience.  Seek them out.  Believe them.

Dear people trying to be allies:  

Do you want to be an ally?  Ally is a set of behaviors.  It's not a title.  If you want to behave like an ally, some of the very basic things you can do are:

  • Educate yourself about what the people who are part of the minority you are trying to ally with go through.  Educate yourself about their / our lived experience.  
  • Respect that we know more about the truth of our own lived experience than you do.  
  • Listen when we tell you about our experience.  
  • Believe us when we tell you about our experience, and believe us when we tell you about prejudice, bigotry, and the -isms we face every day. 
There's lots more you can do.  Start with educating yourself, listening, and believing, and you'll find out what behaviors we really need from you.

Hoo-rah-I-think-everyone-should-be-able-to-get-married is not enough.

An Oppressed Person Who's Tired of This Shit