Trans solidarity

I woke up this morning to the news that the Trump regime has decided to restrict the definition of gender to the gender you were assigned at birth, based on genitalia, first via LGBT history on Instagram, and then via The Guardian:

The Trump administration is attempting to strip transgender people of official recognition by creating a narrow definition of gender as being only male or female and unchangeable once determined at birth, the New York Times reported.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has undertaken an effort across several departments to establish a legal definition of sex under title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans discrimination on the basis of sex, the Times said, citing a government memo.

That definition would be as either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals a person is born with, the Times reported.

Such an interpretation would reverse the expansion of transgender rights that took place under Barack Obama.

This is horrifying and has widespread implications for transgender, nonbinary, and genderqueer people. It legitimizes the widely-held view that biological sex is an absolute binary, despite the fact that numerous scientific studies have shown that it isn’t.

Continue reading

Halloween and Samhain

The season of Halloween is fast approaching, and with it, the opening of several different silly seasons. It’s the season for racists to dress as caricatures of other ethnic groups. It’s the season for journalists to find the gothiest witches they can, and write dramatic articles about them. And it’s the season for spooky films on TV, and (gods help us all) pumpkin spice latte.

Continue reading

First thoughts, second thoughts, and third thoughts

I’ve often said that Terry Pratchett was one of the greatest Pagan theologians, although he wasn’t a Pagan. In his books Small Gods, Pyramids, and the series about the witches, he often explored ideas about how gods might might come into being, and how they interact with the world. He was also, in a quiet and humorous way, a passionate advocate of thinking about things more deeply, looking beyond the surface of things, and being compassionate. (If you missed that about his writing, read it again.)

In the Tiffany Aching series, there’s a great passage about first thoughts, second thoughts, and third thoughts:

“First Thoughts are the everyday thoughts. Everyone has those. Second Thoughts are the thoughts you think about the way you think. People who enjoy thinking have those. Third Thoughts are thoughts that watch the world and think all by themselves. They’re rare, and often troublesome. Listening to them is part of witchcraft.”
Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

Continue reading

Never again

I don’t know how to write this in a way that will convince you if you’re an opponent of gun control. But I have to write something.

There have been eighteen mass shootings in the USA this year already, and it’s only February.

Whenever there’s a particularly awful mass shooting, I post about gun control on Facebook, and someone is sure to comment that it’s too soon to talk about gun control, or that I am politicising a tragedy, or I don’t understand because I’m British.

Yes, I do not understand the American obsession with the second amendment. I don’t understand why the right to own a gun is more important than the lives of the hundreds of thousands of victims of gun violence.

Continue reading

Culture change and cat-herding

There’s always a difficult process when one group of people feels passionately that something needs to change, and another group of people feel that the status quo is just fine, usually (but not always) because they are not affected by the thing that the first group feels is in need of change.

What tactics should we adopt to try to bring about the change? An open letter? A declaration? A community statement? A petition? Or a pledge to boycott?

Continue reading

Abuse happens in a culture that enables it

An accusation of abuse has surfaced against Isaac Bonewits, made by Moira Greyland, who was abused by her mother, Marion Zimmer Bradley. I never met Isaac, though I had added him as a friend on Facebook. Deborah Lipp and Phaedra Bonewits have issued a joint statement defending him. The context in which  the accusation was made is also problematic, in that the book was published by an alt-right person with an axe to grind.

Whether or not this particular accusation is true, and it would be difficult to determine this long after the events described, and when the person accused is dead, it is all too easy to fall into the pattern of isolating the accused person as a “bad apple”, and failing to look at the whole barrel.

Continue reading

Statement on racism and bigotry

Dowsing for Divinity completely rejects racism, fascism, Nazism, white supremacism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, ageism, ableism, body-shaming, and all forms of bigotry.

Inclusive Pagans celebrate life and love in all its beauty and diversity, and seek to protect and preserve the Earth and Nature, and to cultivate virtues of compassion and respect for all life.

For this reason, following the recent events in Charlottesville, USA, we utterly condemn the ideology and actions of the white supremacists and Neo-Nazis who have caused such suffering there.

The shifting nature of queer culture

So there’s yet another Generation X person holding forth about the “fragility” of millennials, specifically LGBTQIA millennials.

Argh. I wish my generation (and the Boomers) would stop with constructing millennials as fragile and having a victim mentality.

Yes, sure, college-age kids see everything as black and white. So did we when we were that age. They will grow up and learn some nuance. And as a university professor it’s her job to din some nuance into them, and an understanding of queer history.

Every generation thinks it is the most radical there has ever been, and looks upon its elders with pity. It’s part of being young (at least it is in Anglo-American culture). And every older generation rolls its eyes and points out that we did manage to achieve some liberation from oppression.

There were plenty of rigid assholes in our generation too. How about the fact that when I was at university (1986-1990) there wasn’t an LGBT society: there was a separate lesbian society and gay society. Nothing for bisexuals and transgender people. And the lesbian society was full of people who thought that having sex with men, or looking femme, or even having sex with women, was “selling out to the patriarchy”.

A lot of gay and lesbian culture in the eighties and nineties was very biphobic. Feminists were very transphobic (some still are). And no-one was allowed to enjoy kink, according to some feminists.

It’s true that many younger activists are busy erasing the contribution of drag queens and transvestites to LGBT liberation. But these attitudes are no less obnoxious than some of the ones held by earlier generations of queer people.

Let’s not pretend that everything in the LGBT garden was rosy until the “fragile” millennials “ruined” it with their trigger warnings and their campaign for same-sex marriage and their alphabet soup (not that there’s anything wrong with anything on that list, nor are millennials the only ones campaigning for those things). It really, really, wasn’t.

Like any subculture, there are good bits and bad bits and mediocre bits.

Like any subculture, there is constant dialogue with “mainstream” culture. Sometimes mainstream culture adopts, co-opts, or appropriates things that subcultures have created. Sometimes subcultures get partially assimilated into the mainstream, as their ideas become trendy.

The queer movement is still defining itself and its categories. It may be helpful to compare it to feminism and its “waves”. The first wave was about getting legal rights, the second wave was about changing attitudes to women, and the third wave is about intersections with other rights movements (LGBTQ, Black, disabled). Allegedly there’s a fourth wave but it looks very similar to the third wave. Along the way, we have had to go back to first wave concerns (getting legal rights), and to second wave concerns about changing attitudes. And there are some people who are still stuck in the essentialist attitudes of the second wave; while some elements of the second wave anticipated the ideas of the third wave.

The LGBTQ movement could broadly be said to have gone through a similar process (but complicated by the AIDS crisis). First, we needed to dismantle legal discrimination against LGBTQ people, and get some legal rights. Then we needed to challenge and change homophobic attitudes in society (this is an ongoing effort). And we need to understand how LGBTQIA concerns intersect with those of other groups.

The overculture has a nasty habit of pushing back and undermining rights that have already been gained. It’s our job to keep pushing for legal rights, keep trying to change attitudes, and keep being mindful of other oppressed groups.

What would be really great would be if we didn’t all attack millennials with “activism was more fun in my day”. Plenty of the current generation of activists have a sense of humour. How about having a dialogue with them instead of attacking their concerns in glossy magazines? If we all work together, we might get somewhere.

Millennial guy

Millennial guy is chill.
[Public Domain photo]