“Queering Paganism,” or Let Your Freak Flag Fly

So, I read this blog post this week, and I really want to address the idea that we, as pagans, need to make ourselves normal to break away from negative stereotypes. (Note: I’m not singling out this blog post for any reason other than it happens to be the most recent thing I’ve read that states this opinion. This is not a new attitude; this is just the first time I’m writing about it.)

I really hate this idea. I think it’s fundamentally wrong, from a social justice viewpoint. I see it not only in paganism but in other marginalized groups,* and intersectionally. The idea that in order to destigmatize ourselves, we need to become just like the mainstream — we need to do what the kyriarchy wants us to do.

Darlins, I use the word queer for a specific reason, and it’s not because I’m exclusively attracted to women (which I’m not).

When I say I’m queer, I don’t just mean I’m a proud QUILTBAGger. I mean I’m queer as fuck. I am strange. I am different.

And that’s awesome.

I have no intention of dressing myself up in “normal” just so I can convince the ruling classes that I’m worth their attention, that I deserve to have rights or respect. I deserve to have rights and respect regardless if I choose to wear sweat pants and my Community shirt when I go out or if I dress up in fairy wings and vampire fangs for Pagan Pride Day. How ‘normal’ or queer I look has nothing to do with either my religious sincerity or my basic humanity. 

Arguing that we should normalize ourselves so that the kyriarchy will accept us as mainstream and “normal” is basically throwing the queers under the bus.

“Look! I’m a normal pagan! I’m not like those weirdo pagans that wear fairy wings! So you should let me into your special Masters of the Universe club.”

or

“Look! I’m a fat pagan and I dress nicely according to your standards! I’m always looking out for how I look, because it’s important that you don’t think I’m poor.”

or

We’re just like you, so you have nothing to fear! It’s only people who look different from you that you should worry about.

Et cetera.

So long as we continue to do this — fighting for our rights by helping the marginalization of other folks in our groups — we’ll never attain true equality. I’m not a fan of the idea that the ends justify the means or that we should be happy for any change, and therefore it’s okay to throw others under the bus so long as we get some rights.

Those ideas do not go along with justice. And we know my feelings about that.

While some pagans call for normalcy and dispelling of “negative” stereotypes (because, you know, wearing glitter or comfortable clothing makes us all look really bad), I don’t. I call for a queering of paganism.

Come as you are. Be as weird as you want to be. There are no spots for us in mainstream society, and I’ll be damned if I let the spots that are open to us close up because someone wants us to fit into that wide, sludgy river.

I think Ani said it best:

the mainstream is so polluted with lies / once you are wet, it’s so hard to get dry / and we are all taught how to justify / history / as it passes by

Get yourselves out of that river. Come inside, warm yourselves by the fire. Let your queerness shine through. 

 

*Please note that while paganism is a marginalized group, the marginalization we face as pagans is no where near the level trans folk, people of color, or queer folk suffer, or even the level that other minority faiths suffer. I’m not equating them.

9 Comments


  1. Here-here for Queers, in any sense of the word. Last time I checked, human rights and worth as a person were for everybody, not just the “normal” ones. One of the main reasons Neo-Paganism was started, I think, was because we weren’t happy with being “normal” and wanted a place of our own…why would we ruin that? Give me my fairy wings, please.

    Reply

  2. I don’t think we should have to be “normal”, and how people want to dress everyday is entirely up to them. I think that there is a point though that when one is trying to be accepted in a more mainstream sort of way (which is one of the goals of PPD), one should not go out of one’s way to reinforce negative stereotypes. The average Pagan – is often just like everyone else, so it hurts us as a group to have people, who truly have no clue come in and start acting like a bunch of idiots.

    I did make the point as well, that I was specifically not talking about people who would normally dress or act in a particular manner – for I have no issue with that at all. I was specifically addressing people who feel that PPD is one big costume party, who think that for some reason dressing up as Harry Potter is an appropriate way of saying “hey…look at me, I’m one of you” – particularly when it’s clear that they have no idea what “one of you” actually means.

    There is a place for all of us in the mainstream if we want it, but just like anything that is worth having – we have to be willing to work for it. That may mean taking baby steps… one at a time, and towards that, it can mean taking a little bit of care in how we present ourselves to the “public”. I’m a casual girl myself, but if putting on the pantyhose, sensible flats and business attire will make a better presentation – then I’m willing to endure it for a bit, if it helps to achieve the overall goal. Because once we reach that goal… then we will be truly free to do whatever we want to do, and that makes it all worth it in the end.

    Reply

    1. You’re missing my point.

      I don’t want to be part of the mainstream. The mainstream has to change if it wants me to join. I don’t see being part of the mainstream as something “worth having”, because in order to join it I’d have to change myself so fundamentally that I wouldn’t recognize myself anymore. It’s not worth being part of something that doesn’t want me as I am.

      For me, one of the goals of Pagan Pride Day is to network with other pagans. The pride part comes in with wanting to show the mainstream “This is how I am, and I’m not ashamed; I don’t want to join you, but I’d like it if you would stop farting in my general direction.”

      There’s a difference between pushing people away by being a rude asshole, and people being pushed away by our group’s diversity.

      Reply

  3. But glitter is near impossible to remove completely. Hug a glittery person and there will be glitter in your car and when you get pulled over some 5-6 years later, you’ll wipe your face in stress as you hide your unmentionables and get searched anyway because you put on your solemn face for the officer, but all he/she sees is tenacious glitter on your face. Suspicious. Then you go to jail. Glitter = jail.

    But seriously, I am out of the loop on this one. I work with teenagers so appearances mean just about diddly to me unless weaponry is involved. Let the freak flags fly. I much prefer creativity to a bland Abercrombie existence at least to watch. I’m on a budget myself, so I’ll be wearing that which lasts and usually that is dull unless I have to staple the hem of something on the fly. Then I sparkle a little. Fancy!

    I think it would be funny to mock up a pagan dress code though. Mostly because I think it is silly to try for acceptance based on appearance. I know gansta stylers who would give their life for me and I know straight laced lookers who would stomp puppies. Mainstream is screwed up anyway, why aim so low for acceptance. It’s a pride day, not a day of self loathing.

    This all reminds me of that unification idea. I don’t think there is some big threat to pagans that they don’t already know about, I think some people want a voter bloc though. With all the unclaimed “nones” about, I also suspect being mainstream looking is a way of attracting new consumers to come under the umbrella. It’s politics and it makes people spiritual beggars.

    Reply

    1. But glitter is near impossible to remove completely.

      Oh gods, I know. My boyfriend and I both do burlesque. There has been glitter in places. It can be painful.

      We call it fairy herpes.

      Mainstream is screwed up anyway, why aim so low for acceptance.

      Right? This is exactly how I feel.

      Reply


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