Transphobia Not Welcome at Neo-Pagan Conference

A handful of activists have ensured that Max Dashu, now known as someone who holds certain transphobic views, has been disinvited as a PantheaCon presenter. And I’m glad.

Here’s why.

Here’s a bit of the background.


From PantheaCon Website

“Theme for 2019: Unity, Respect for our Diversity, and Connecting Webs to Heal the Earth What are we doing to heal our mother, our selves? What are we Willing to do for the Earth and for our Community?

This year we especially want to emphasize that PantheaCon is a Safe Space for all. We tolerate no harassment of anyone by others. This is called Pax Templi where differences of opinion are set aside for the duration of the Sacred Space.”


Community/Activist Repsonse

When events and organizations make statements about safety and inclusion it is reasonable to take them at their word. So, when a few people spotted this problematic speaker on the program, they protested on behalf of their communities.

(By the way, “TERF” means “trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” in case you don’t know. I’ll be using the term below.)

One of the activists who alerted the conference to the problematic speaker is Colin Davis, who blogs at Patheos. I have their permission to quote from their statement posted on Facebook.

“…a laurel: the PantheaCon staff with whom I’ve interacted around this issue have been absolutely spectacular, supportive, and committed to the kind of inclusion and acceptance that this community has every right to expect. They have been incredible allies for the trans community, and continue to do so. I am honored, humbled, and proud to be able to say I stand with them.

In closing, I want to point out that standing up for my trans and nonbinary siblings is not misogyny, no matter how often some say it is, and that stating safety concerns is not libel… especially given the outcome. If we are to have a truly safe and inclusive environment, we cannot give any platform or discursive space to the voices that call for exclusion and hatred based on identity.”

Davis’s last point about the importance of not giving a “platform or discursive space” to exclusionary speakers is another key point. Please hold onto it.

Regarding the Ousted Speaker

I mostly want to focus on actions and statements in this post, not personalities. Others have covered the qualifications, merits, and deficits of Max Dashu and have tracked her comments, positions, and noted her associations with others who take TERF-type positions. But in case anyone is wondering if her TERF reputation is deserved, here is a quote from Dashu, which I have lifted from the comments section attached to “So-Called Predators in the Bathroom… Again,” Lady Idos, May 3, 2016, Ms. Blog. There are many problems with her assertions below. Trigger warning… transphobic vitriol.


Max Dashu says:
May 6, 2016 at 10:11 am
When are people (feminists, yet!) going to get that the main issue for women is not that trans women are sexual predators, which the vast majority are not, but that the laws are being rewritten in an all-encompassing way that allows male predators into women’s spaces? As if no issue of female safety exists, as if only trans women face an issue of safety. When under these new rules, just by pretending to be women, dressing in female guise, saying they are women, *any* man can gain entry into bathrooms, locker rooms, saunas or whatever, and perv on the women in those spaces. When did feminists forget that straight men like to transgress and violate female boundaries, put cameras under stalls and up women’s skirts? that they do commit rapes in bathrooms? Yet all over the place, we see this reality being denied, by feminists! in the name of defending trans women. Looking fixedly past the reality of male violence, denying that any problem exists in the rush to make new laws: what kind of feminism is this? Safety in bathrooms is a female issue, not just an issue for trans women. (And sex and gender are not the same thing.) So incidents like the guy in Seattle who came into the women’s room and took off his shirt, and when challenged, told the pool officials, “The law has changed, and i have a right to be here.” He didn’t claim to be a woman, nor dress as one, he just wanted to intrude because he could. Male entitlement is bottomless, don’t think this won’t be a problem.


Please see this page on Transgender People and Bathroom Access if you are even half-tempted to consider Dashu’s position as reasonable. Plus, there are already laws to protect people from sexual assaults and other crimes. The Seattle guy? He’s an outlier and a kook (see section below). It would be just as ridiculous to base local, state, and federal public policy on the Seattle example as it would be to base policies on the fact that a man I dated once (sadly) followed me into a community college bathroom to scream at me for not wanting to date him a second time.

I first learned of the PantheaCon’s issue yesterday, in an esoteric social media group. There was a vigorous conversation in the thread and I threw myself into it with my usual polite passion. I tend to include links and sources when in this mode. I was particularly keen to address points made in one person’s “I can see all sides of this” posts, which seemed to focus on click-bait about men “pretending” to be women to game the system for perks, as if these kinds of outlier incidents justified TERF attitudes about transgender and gender variant rights.

I added the following links to the thread: United Nations Foundation statement on trans rights, and the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. I also posted the Transgender Day of Remembrance website so that people could understand the kind of violence that many trans people face. I asked people reading and posting in the thread to educate themselves about trans issues using this material. (I think this request actually came before the other poster added click bait.)

I am Wondering About Knee-Jerk Reactions and Weaponized “Fears”

I woke up this morning with this thought. There’s something about the way that TERFs react that reminds me of how some racist white women (and a few men) have been captured on camera, weaponizing their “fears and discomfort” by calling 911 on people of color doing ordinary things. (Here is a good post about why we should not give the racist 911 callers cute nicknames.)

By broaching this subject, I am emphatically NOT comparing the experiences of POC in the U.S. with that of trans and gender diverse people in the U.S. (though many people are both). I DO  want to examine similarities between the knee-jerk responses of TERFs and the white 911 callers. I think there are some. And there are differences too, of course.

In the last year especially we’ve seen a lot of viral videos of white women calling police on black people and other POC for having barbecues, waiting for AAA, trying to get into their own apartment complex, babysitting, etc. We can easily see how distorted and ugly these actions are. We can see the racism. We can see the over-reactions. We can see that the automatic assumption of criminality is unfair and unwarranted.

We can also see how wrong and dangerous it is to call in authorities with guns–because “we” (meaning white people here–people of color have always known) now also have a greater awareness that police often shoot black people, often for no reason. For no damned reason. (Black people shot by police in 2018.) And there’s now some discussion on the internet of how white women (in particular) absolutely have to manage their own “discomfort” and fears instead of calling the cops. Read “White Women Weaponize Their Fears and Femininity to Assert Their Power Over POC,” Cameron Glover, May 18, 2018, Afropunk.

What’s less visible are the very real dangers to trans people when inflammatory public figures and scholars also “call 911” by whipping up public fears and resentments. Brutal people, criminals, and even everyday bullies use the inflammatory statements to justify their right to do very bad things to anyone who does not conform to their notions of “proper” gender presentation. The Transgender Day of Remembrance documents this very thing in stark terms that we should all be able to understand. But there are also other forms of violence, of micro-aggressions, and these do damage too.

(I want to note there that people with intersex variations are also at risk here.)

The most unreasonable of the TERFs persist in denying all reality of trans and other gender experiences. To them, a trans woman is always going to be an entitled man in disguise, a “perv” as Dashu says, someone presumed to be dangerous and/or criminal. I wish someone would write an article called “Radical Feminists Weaponize Their Fears and Femininity to Assert Their Power Over Trans People.” We must see that the automatic assumption of criminality–especially as it impacts trans women–is unfair and unwarranted.

TERFs seem to refuse the opportunity to examine their own “discomfort” and “fears” with regard to trans people and their own intersections of cis-privilege and female oppression (intersectionality is a term invented by black scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw). The “privilege” of using one’s own discomfort and fears to affect public opinion, discourse, and policy must be examined. Academics have an even greater responsibility to do this, frankly, as they have educational privilege and supposedly also have critical thinking skills.

Some of what’s needed are facts, the ability to understand those facts, a dollop of empathy, a desire to become better educated about issues, some self-knowledge, and tools to manage our raging sympathetic nervous systems.

However, because TERF reactions to a trans presence are generally distorted, we can’t count on them doing much of the above. So to deny them platforms, then, is perfectly appropriate as they have not “done the work” IN THIS AREA to make them fit to speak to a wider public, like Panthea.Com. (I put that in caps because, yeah, some have done other kinds of work elsewhere.)

Please note similarities to our seemingly national “discomfort” with immigrants, Muslims, you name it–and to our dangerous, knee-jerk reactions to these “threats.” We ALL need to learn to manage feelings of “discomfort,” fear, and perceptions of threats where none exist. We really, really do. And when we’ve got histories of abuse ourselves, and are likely to be triggered, the necessity for self-awareness in this area even more crucial.

We must realize that the automatic assumption of criminality is unfair and unwarranted, no matter what our nervous systems are screaming. React to real dangers, yes, but not to imaginary ones.

Outliers, Con-Artists, and Kooks

Finally, here is my response to the person (sadly, an academic) who posted the three “click bait” news articles in the thread (for reasons which remained largely murky for most of the duration). One had to do with a trans woman who assaulted fellow inmates; one was a screenshot of some fool who wanted to know if he could qualify for a STEM scholarship by pretending to be female; and the third had to do with someone who changed the gender of his driver’s license to get a cheaper car insurance rate.

I said:

“Hey, are there jerks, con artists, and abusers in every subgroup imaginable? You betcha. White cis female imposters like Rachel Dolezal pretended to be black in order to game the system. White cis female Andrea Smith pretended to be Cherokee and boosted her academic career until exposed. But no one who is reasonable uses these examples to argue against affirmative action in universities, or against welfare. TERFs, however, inflate stories like the above to justify their ‘fears’ and ‘discomfort’ and then promote and inflame these fears in others. The result is violence and social and economic injustice against trans and gender variant people. However I’ll take your sparse selection of outlier examples and raise you with all the names of all the dead on the TDOR site–people who have been shot, stabbed, mutilated, you name it–often for being in the ‘wrong’ place. I do not believe that posting what is essentially click bait advances this discussion. A much more robustly insightful examination of prejudice and entrenched systems of oppression is in order.”

There is so much more to say on this topic. But at the moment, I’m spent.


Disclosure: I am a 64-year old white, cis-het woman with a hidden disability. I am the mother of two adult children. One is trans. As a sexologist and writer I have been vocal in support for trans and intersex rights. My pronouns are “she/her” but gender neutral would be fine as well. To borrow a phrase from a friend and colleague, “I am reluctantly gendered” as female. I’ve also experienced sexual assault and coercion as well as physical violence, and have sometimes been afraid as a result. For most of my life I’ve identified as a feminist (of sorts) but certainly NOT a “radical feminist.” 


 

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Mauna Kea-Facing More Desecration

Heartbreaking news. The Hawai’i State Supreme Court has ruled in favor of construction of yet another industrial-strength development on Sacred Mauna Kea. The heroic case presented by native Hawaiians and allies–the Protectors aka na Kia’i–against the development of this amazingly corrupt and disrespectful project consists of legal-based, fact-based, Hawaiian culture-based, and environmentally-based arguments which all demonstrated, without a doubt, the manifold adverse effects of this humungous building proposed for a delicate conservation district, atop the island’s aquifer, on top of one of the most sacred mountains in all the Pacific. Watch this beautiful documentary, Mauna Kea-Temple Under Siege, for background on an earlier struggle against the Keck Telescope.

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Amy Marsh, Mauna Kea Kia’i Encampment, Mother’s Day, 2015.

I am stunned and heartbroken by this news. It was my privilege to stand alongside my former partner in this struggle for almost fourteen years. He was and is one of the petitioners in the court case and constested case hearings which challenged this project. I have had a pretty good ringside seat for many years, knowing what this effort has cost him and the other petitioners. Not just in money, but in family time, self-care time, and the intense effects of constant stress and trauma on individual, family, and community health. Oh, I could go on. I could! But for the moment, I am just simply appalled.

But powerful money interests appear to have won for the moment. The combined influences of CalTech, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and numerous public officials with now nicely greased palms, have formed a juggernaut determined to roll forward over sacred land.

And it’s not just sacred land. It’s Kanaka Maoli  (native Hawaiian) land which was taken and is held by force by the U.S. government, and which–in the opinion of the World Court of Arbitration at The Hague (Lance Larsen vs. The Hawaiian Kingdom)–is an unlawfully occupied nation-state (country) deprived of its proper functioning government. In other words, Hawai’i is not a legitimately acquired “state” of the U.S. and this is becoming more widely known both within Hawai’i and in the most influential circles of international law.


“I have come to understand that the lawful political status of the Hawaiian Islands is that of a sovereign nation-state in continuity but a nation-state that is under a strange form of occupation by the United States resulting from an illegal military occupation and a fraudulent annexation.”

–Dr. Alfred M. DeZayas, Feb. 25, 2018, written as a Memorandum of the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner.*


So, TMT and just about everything else inflicted on Kanaka Maoli and descendents of Hawaiian Kingdom nationals (naturalized citizens) by the “fake state” government is a probably a war crime as per international law. Got that? The situation in Hawai’i is THE longest running occupation in recent world history, but most people don’t even know this. (See this news  and community meeting video regarding a local elected official’s efforts to take action on the war crimes issues.)

I will publish a link of the petitioners’ official response to this decision when I see it.


For more information on the Hawaiian Kingdom, see https://www.hawaiiankingdom.org

See also political history of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

* Source: Video of Presentation by Councilwoman Jen Ruggles, Puna, Hawai’i.

**This is an overs-simplified statement for me to make. Please see this page called Government Re-established.


“Biohazard” Section of this Blog Post

Now, I am not trying to “center” myself here, but I want you do know why I, a non-Hawaiian, care so deeply about this issue. (And yes, this is a “woo” blog but my spiritual life has always been mixed with my life as an activist, so political and social justice matters will appear from time to time.)

My long history of supporting Hawaiian independence and the struggle to protect Mauna Kea as an ally (and later as the partner of a native activist and cultural practitioner) was the result of various spiritual epiphanies and events that took place prior to, and concurrent with, my learning the truths of Hawaiian history and the political situation. I had been granted certain life-changing experiences in Hawai’i, and therefore I felt a duty to “give back” to the people and the ‘aina (land) in the form of activism and support. I didn’t always do things in the right way or with the right understanding of protocols and local ways, and to my sorrow I realize I was sometimes (often?) clumsy and off-putting in my enthusiasm, but I did try to help when I could.

My “wyrd” threw me a curveball when it upended my previously comfy residence in a San Francisco-centric world of punk rock, motherhood and marriage, anthroposophy and Waldorf schools, and environmental health activism. That “spontaneous combustion” I wrote about previously took place in this context of a “Hawaiian” connection (the nature and meaning of this event is still a central mystery in my life). My wyrd has now changed course, bringing me back from my love affair with the islands (and my island love affair), to purposeful encounters with other spiritual traditions and other urgent political and social justice issues. I’m in Pomo land, here on Turtle Island, and I stay aware of that as I adjust to my new surroundings.

But I don’t forget Hawai’i. And I don’t forget the Mauna. And I stay in solidarity, though with more distance now. I know the fight to protect this mountain and other sacred lands of Hawai’i is far from over. Please check out the Protect Mauna Kea Facebook group, and other groups supporting Kanaka Maoli struggles for independence, restoration of the Kingdom, and other social and political justice issues. Thank you.

#KuKiaiMauna #AoleTMT


Some of my contributions over the years included making websites for people and causes, writing articles, and raising modest sums of money:

“America’s Tibet,” Hawai’i Island News, 2004, with Kukauakahi Ching and David Ingham.

PDF of article in Slingshot, a publication associated with The Long Haul in Berkeley (however, I know better than to write “Hawai’ian” with an ‘okina. The editors didn’t consult me): 2005_Slingshot_1 

2005_Slingshot_2

2005_Slingshot_3

I originally designed and maintained this website for one of the Kia’i (Protectors). I also made a website for StopBombingHawaii.org but it seems to be gone now, or at least, I can’t find it. There is a Facebook group though, so please go there!

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Amy Marsh, circa 2015. T-shirt designed by Laulani Teale.

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Declaration 127-A Stand Against Hate

A few years ago, “180 organizations in over 20 different nations” created a repudiation of the Asatru Folk Assembly’s (AFA) policies of discrimination against people of color and LGBTQIA people. Read about this here, at Huginn’s Heathen Hof, which sponsored the Declaration. After the specific language concerning the AFA, the following paragraph is relevant and significant.


“…We hereby declare that we do not condone hatred or discrimination carried out in the name of our religion, and will no longer associate with those who do. We will not grant the tacit approval of silence in the name of frið, to those who would use our traditions to justify prejudice on the basis of race, nationality, orientation, or gender identity.”


D127stickerBNow, because this Declaration 127 was written and then signed by a number of Heathen and Asatru, or otherwise Norse or Northern-identified spiritual groups and people, a denunciation of discrimination against people of other religions wasn’t included. That’s because this was a statement of acceptance of all people wanting in, not all people in general, but I like to think that the general principles of inclusivity and non-discrimination are implied in Declaration 127 and that solidarity with people of all religions is therefore also implied.

That’s a terribly important point to ponder. As are critiques of Declaration 127 which “does not go far enough,” as Snoof Madrune Obline blogged in 2016. We need actions as well as “dissociation.”

Even so, yesterday I signed Declaration 127 as an individual, and also in the name of the Lokabrenna Tiny Temple. I am a member of The Troth and am in the Heathens Against Hate Facebook group, but in my mind, my signing Declaration 127 puts ME on notice that I’d better step up my game. My statement below doesn’t mean that I now get to sit back, satisfied that I’ve done my share in “speaking out.”


I, Amy R. Marsh and the Lokabrenna Tiny Temple, fully support Declaration 127 and am completely opposed, now and forever, to racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, discrimination against immigrants, and all other barbaric superstitions and acts of injustice, violence and hate.


These times are too dire. And people are dying–have been dying for decades, centuries!–as a result of (1) acts of violence and (2) acts of complacency.

There’s a lot to unpack here. I can’t do it in one blog. What I can offer, and it is a poor, outdated document at best, is the Real Zombie Apocalypse Resistance Handbook which is chock full ‘o links to good organizations to support. I did it in the first month after the 2016 election, and though I meant to make monthly updates, I just…couldn’t…keep up… with all the atrocious developments in the new…regime. But go there, find even more organizations to support as you (and I) gather our remaining strength and wits, leverage our community ties, and try to figure out how to stop this horrific slide into utter, reactionary, barbaric fascism.

1. Resistance Handbook – First Issue

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What Came First? The Magic or the Book?

1-dire_francesco_del_cossa_010As I’ve written elsewhere, I’ve had a lifelong interest in the occult and some very odd experiences too, but I didn’t start studying Western magic and witchcraft until I started writing this fantasy novel on Nov. 1, 2016. The plot required my characters to learn from Western magical traditions and so I figured I had to research this as well. What I didn’t realize was that this study would prove as important and life-changing as any of my other major epiphanies (and I’ve had a few).

The Dire Deeds of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits, now completed, is many things to me. It was my salvation during a very difficult time of loneliness and social anxiety. It was my way of creating community (though imaginary) in the aftermath of a divorce, in a time and place where friendships and family were proving unreliable. And it was my love letter and good-bye to Hawai’i nei (beloved Hawai’i). Dire Deeds is also my social commentary on forms of settler-colonialism peculiar to the Puna District (Hawai’i Island’s “Lower East Side”). Other themes include aging, LGBTQIA etc. struggles, white privilege, and more. But this description makes the book sound far too serious. I assure you, the “tone” is often playful, comic, and sweetly sardonic, even though these topics–and events in the book–are “dire.”

Best_small_ Buffalmacco,_trionfo_della_morte,_eremiti_02 copyNow I begin the second book in what will be a trilogy: The Witching Work of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits. Spoiler alert – it takes place in Lake County, California, where I now live. All the previous characters will continue in this second volume, and a few new ones will be added–notably the charismatic “drifter,” Lucky LaFey.

The third book will take place in England, and will be called The Perilous Past of the Guild of Ornamental Hermits.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) was the vehicle for jumpstarting and continuing Dire Deeds, and I am going to begin The Witching Work during this year’s NaNoWriMo contest, which starts (as always) on Nov. 1st (my birthday). I expect to have no problem achieving the 50,000 word count which is the goal of the contest. Even so, please wish me luck. And it would please me too if you went to my book website and read some of the excerpts and blog posts.

Thank you!

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Slut Shaming in the Lokasenna

I have to admit, I have struggled with the Lokasenna, an Old Norse poem in the Poetic Edda, sometimes known as “Loki’s Flyting” (or “truth telling”) delivered as an exchange of insults with the rest of the Aesir deities.

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1861 Painting, Le fete d’Aegir. Artist unknown. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Dr. Jackson Crawford’s video on the Lokasenna is quite helpful in explaining the content and some of the cultural underpinnings. Dagulf Loptson’s explanation of Lokasenna, in the chapter segment called “Loki’s Battle Rap,” is also key to my understanding (pp. 164-167). He cites Karen Swenson’s Performing Definitions: Two Genres of Insult in Old Norse Literature (Camden House Inc., SC, 1991, pp. 58-59). What I’ve gleaned so far is that the Lokasenna is an account of Loki’s ritual battle of wits and words designed to win back his place in Aesir society by exposing hypocrisy, “pointing out that the gods are guilty of the same crimes that make Loki an outcast,” thereby “resetting the social standard” (Loptson, p. 166). It should be noted that none of the gods or goddesses deny Loki’s claims.

It’s an incredibly bitter exchange, no matter which translation you read. I have Lee M. Hollander’s 1988 version, but plan on ordering Dr. Jackson Crawford’s translation of the Poetic Edda in the near future. For me the most disturbing element in Lokasenna is Loki’s slut-shaming of the goddesses, some of whom were his own clandestine lovers. And if some goddesses weren’t actually his lovers, he exposes their other private love affairs (often with relatives) or ridicules their exchanges of sexual favors for jewelry or property.

If I get the gist correctly (using Hollander’s version),  Loki indirectly outs Freya as one of his ex-lovers when he says that “all Aesir and alfs within this hall, thou has lured to love with thee.” Since Loki is among the Aesir in the hall, I assume he’s counting himself too. Loki says Tyr’s unnamed wife, plus Sif and Skathi, have also been his lovers. Loki does not name the goddesses Ithun (Idun), Gefjon, Frigg, and Beyla as his conquests, but he shames them for other illicit sexual activities. (However in his video, Dr. Crawford remarks that it sounds like all the goddesses have been with Loki at some point, but I haven’t read his translation.)

To be fair, Loki also “slut-shames” Frey and Njorth’s for incest with their sisters.

Now I know it’s ridiculous to attempt to graft 21st century feminist standards or moral interpretations on a poem produced in a “hyper-masculine” culture (Dr. Crawford’s word for Old Norse society) and written in either the late 10th (Hollander) or 12th century (Crawford). However, because I am a mortal cis-gal of this era and Loki is my “most trusted one” in my polytheistic practice, I still have to make my own peace with this content (along with the homophobic elements–ack!) and I’m not sure I can.

Except to try to understand this ritualized “truth-telling” in the context of Loptson’s interpretation.

And also, perhaps in a more emotionally personal way, by trying to imagine the frustration and anger of a god who is not just rejected by friends (such as Odin) but also by former lovers, not one of whom puts in a good word for him (even though the sex must have been fantastic!). Sif’s cowardly offer of mead in exchange for Loki’s silence must have been the last straw–rather than being proud of their liaison, or even just honestly admitting to it, she begs to be excluded from his flyting. Loki’s not having any of it. He exposes Sif just as he’s exposed all the rest. And so the Aesir circle their wagons against Loki and he can only hurl himself against their collective hypocrisy. Still, Loki might have won the ritual “battle rap” if Thor hadn’t shown up to spoil the party by threats of force. Loki flees but is captured. This stamp from the Faroe Islands illustrates the rest of the story.

Faroe_stamp_498_Djurhuus_poems_-_Loki_Laufey's_Son
Stamp from the Faroe Islands, 2004, showing Loki bound and Sigyn holding the bowl to catch snake venom.

Loptson says “Loki is a very modern-minded god” (p. 8) and these days many artists enjoy rendering Loki in hipster garb. I like to think Loki’s au courant with more than fashion. For one thing, he’s become a favorite god of people who are diverse in gender and sexuality, so how did he mutate from pre-12th century slut-shamer to 21st century sexual and gender human rights ally?

In a purely intellectual exercise (not to be confused with UPG), I like to imagine that the Western world’s sexual revolution of the 1960s-1970s might have shattered the last remnants of Loki’s Old Norse misogyny. After all, slut-shaming is itself a despicable form of hypocrisy and I feel Loki has enough self-honesty to realize this, once his anger cools.

I like to imagine him wandering through the “Swinging London” of the 1960s. New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco too! I can imagine him getting drunk with Janis Joplin on one memorable evening, and as she pours out painful tales of her Port Arthur adolescence, how she was called “pig” and “whore” and “the ugliest man on campus,” Loki begins to understand his own marginalization and sexual complexities through the lens of her passion and despair. And perhaps while staggering down Haight Street at 2 AM, sobered by the brisk wind and fog of the “cool grey city of love,” he reflects on his famous “flyting”–perhaps wishing a few things unsaid. Unfortunately, by the time he calls Janis back for another tryst, she’s no longer alive in Midgard. But Loki doesn’t forget.

I can imagine Loki’s intellectual and sexual encounters with an array of 20th and 21st century change-makers. I see him spending a few nights with gay filmmaker Kenneth Anger, after attending a private screening of Kustom Kar Kommandos. He has tea with Quentin Crisp and parties with David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and Lou Reed. He’s been known to leave flowers on the graves of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and  Pete Burns and to watch the sunset from Stinson Beach, thinking of Janis’s ashes scattered off-shore. He’s visited Alan Turing’s memorial and whispered greetings from Christopher. I can imagine Loki trading Anais Nin stories with Henry Miller after attending one of Nin’s feminist lectures. I can imagine Loki shapeshifted into an ordinary 1970s housewife, attending her first “consciousness raising” group, or volunteering on a rape crisis hotline. He’s been at the side of a gay-bashed teenager, offering solace. He inspired Robert Mapplethorpe to take up photography. He’s cheering, not booing, Sylvia Rivera’s speech. Later, he attends Pride Marches all over the world and donates to the UnSlut Project. He has read every name on the Transgender Day of Remembrance website. Twice.

He gets it. And we love him for it.

After all, what’s the point of being an ancient primordial being–part wave, part particle, part cosmic force, part sugar dandy–if you can’t partake a bit of the life and times of the mortal morsels in Midgard? I imagine immortality could be awfully dull, otherwise.

I like to imagine that Loki knows now how easily the human spirit can be broken by sexual and gender shaming, that among humans it has become a fascist technique for control, and that he and the rest of the gods could set a better example by not going there, even in their own present and future conflicts. 

In other words, I like to feel that Loki continues to evolve, as we all should, and that as Worldbreaker he also challenges himself to break his own prejudices and conditioning.

It’s only that very last sentence, above, that I might claim as a “UPG.” And maybe that’s how I make my peace with the content of Lokasenna.

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The Woo Gets Weird

In this second year of the reincarnated reign of the mad Emperor Caligula, I thought I’d heard it all. But a conversation earlier this week proved me wrong.

NAMABG-Caligula_1
A very orange bust of Caligula.

I was in a local cafe minding my own business over a pastrami salad (that’s a sandwich without the bread ’cause I can’t eat wheat) and thinking fond thoughts of my favorite trickster god, when an acquaintance enters. Naturally I invite this person to sit at my table. Now, I am purposefully not giving any details, including gender, because the point of this blog is not the person, but what I made of what was said during our conversation.

Now, I do my best to be patient and attempt understanding, rapport, and postive regard in most of my interactions (always mindful of Caroline Casey’s caution that Scorpios can’t help broadcasting their “inner assessment” of people). This person’s woo is a decidedly different “brand” than my Norse/witchy/polytheist pagan woo and this person is much more emphatic about communicating it as Truth. But because I’m quite grateful that my friends are tolerant of my various esoteric passions, I try to extend the same courtesy to others.

I should also explain that in my life, weird woo stuff has always plopped itself down in front of me. During my formative teen years, my mother let a lunatic cut a cross in her arm because he’d convinced her that the revolution was coming and the scar would be a sign that she wasn’t with “the pigs.” (Needless to say, her children were appalled and somewhat traumatized by this.) She also spent many years partnered with a pompous New Ager who was also appalling, though not sadistic. Some of that New Agey stuff stuck though, even as she returned to the Episcopal Church and a less trendy spirituality.

Years ago, when her dear dog died, she phoned one of my brothers with the request to take Puppy’s ashes to Mount Shasta. My brother’s response was, “But Mom, Puppy’s never been to Mount Shasta.” Her response, “Oh.” I think they finally settled on La Jolla as a more suitable location (as Puppy had romped along the beaches there), though last month I found the box of Puppy’s ashes in her former apartment and returned them to her. I tried to tell this story to a friend recently and found myself hysterical with laughter and sadness, to the point of being unintelligble. For me, it sums up so much about my family.

And it wasn’t just my mother. I had an aunt and uncle who disappeared into a really screwed up cult for many years, taking their two young children with them. There was the archetypal warped charismatic leader, admonitions to not talk to family members, probably financial abuse and who knows what else. My uncle eventually left, taking the kids, and his wife got out a year or two later. Thelemites I’ve met since have assured me that they don’t usually operate that way. But this was San Diego in the 70s, and weird woo was wafting from all directions.

As a young teen, I even had a close encounter with the Hare Krishna movement. I used to hitchhike to the Venice Beach temple (again, the 70s) to dance and chant and eat exotic vegetarian food. I was lonely as hell. We’d moved from La Jolla (where I had a close knit group of friends) to the San Fernando Valley, a place where I was often bullied and harassed for my hippie ways and my Black Panther button, which I wore proudly to junior high school. Of course I’d be fascinated by friendly dancing people wearing beautiful fabrics–never mind the signs on the walls disparaging women as alluring impediments to enlightenment… My little brother even got into it too, but balked when the devotees wanted to shave his head in preparation for a visit from their main guru.

I left too. They didn’t want to know about the Black Panthers anyway. I went back to trying to get my LA friends to join the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and ditching school. And though I retained my interest in esoteric topics, including Eastern mysticism, I became leery of group think.

So throughout my life I’ve met and conversed with Buddhists, tantrikas, EST-followers (who remembers that now?!), born again Christians, and more. I even went to sexology school with a pleasant Raelian. However those who share my chosen brand of woo are a bit scarce in these here parts. I’d like to meet a nice kindred and settle down, frankly, but my chances of that seem as likely as getting an actual date via OK Cupid or finding a man interested in a female-led relationship that doesn’t involve foot worship.

So, back to my cafe conversation. I was trying to follow the person’s train of thought involving an ancient “AI” who is programmed to control all our thoughts even if we don’t think we’re controlled, and something about positive attitudes and ascension to the fifth dimension (“the new earth is already here, we just can’t access it yet”).

And then the person said those “magic words” designed to cause instant, stomach-churning discomfort, “Trump is clearing the swamp. He’s bringing back our freedom.”

I am sitting there, in shock, and wondering “What the frack just happened?” The conversation had just gone from ascension to the fifth dimension for the chosen few who somehow choose to vibrate in just the right way (a vision I find appalling in any case) to the mad Emperor himself as the agent of spiritual transformation! “He’s the only one who can do it,” this person insisted, “but I’m not political.”

Then this person told me that “51,000 indictments” were coming and that all the “pedophiles and sex traffickers” would be rounded up. This was supposed to convince me that the mad emperor was doing that spiritual transformation thing for real. All I could think of was if there were really 51,000 indictments, they’d most likely include political foes, activists, immigrants, etc. Everyone that a mad emperor would like to remove. And hey, more fodder for the prison-industrial economy.

I…can’t…even. I first tried asking this person to change the subject, but it didn’t work. I finally had to spew (which I tried to do as nicely as possible but by that time my “inner assessment” was showing).

Anyone who can create a policy that forcibly separates children from parents, and then loses a bunch of the kids so that they can’t even be found to be returned to their parents, is not someone I want to share a “fifth dimension” with. And I could go on and on, but I won’t.

And the idea that those who are destroying our planet (and its inhabitants) feel that they will just ascend away from the mess in some kind of elitist paradise while the rest of us rot in our “negative energy,” well, if that ancient AI is doing its job as this person claims, that would be some kind of programming, wouldn’t it? 

Just saying.

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Reflections on Climate Change Action

When I was a kid, there were plenty of caterpillars, frogs, and birds. I spent my free time exploring tide pools and swimming in the fish-abundant waters of Coronado and La Jolla. I was born in the mid-fifties so I worried about atom bombs, but not about rapid extinctions of animal and plant life, or about the earth becoming increasingly uninhabitable due to climate change. But by the time I was twelve I’d say the sense of an impending “apolcalypse” was definitely on my radar.

I think my young human body, evolved like all of ours with an innate capacity for exquisite sensitivity to the environment, sensed what my intellect did not yet understand: that widespread environmental damage was already upon us all, accelerated by post WWII industrialization, and the surge in development and use of synthetic toxins. My childhood (which had seemed so pristine) was actually spent in a planet already reeling from radioactive fall-out, DDT and other pesticides, accelerating extinctions, and much more. And rising temperatures had already begun.

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https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/01/18/climate/hottest-year-2017.html

I can’t imagine what it’s like for my kids, both in their twenties and trying to figure out what their future holds. And I can’t imagine what it will be like for the younger ones. I love babies but these days I pity them. All over the world, tiny human beings (and animals) are already at the front lines of climate catastrophes and those innocents are dying. This country is definitely not immune and our privileged consumerism will not save us. In fact, it is an enormous part of the problem.

Local Challenges

Where I live, there’s a lovely view. I’m just a block from a lake that I never swim in, because it is frequently contaminated by cyanobacteria. Clear Lake, and its fish and other wildlife, is also contaminated with mercury from the Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine (a Superfund Clean-up site). From Wikipedia:


The mine currently consists of mine tailings, waste rock and a flooded open pit mine (known as the Herman Impoundment or Herman Pit). Approximately two million cubic yards of mine wastes and tailings remain on the site. The Herman pit, which is filled with acidic water, covers 23 acres (93,000 m2) to a depth of 90 feet (27 m) and is located 750 feet (230 m) upslope of Clear Lake. The Elem Tribal Colony of Pomo Indians is located directly adjacent to the mine property. A freshwater wetland is located to the north of the mine, and critical habitat for three endangered species of wildlife, the peregrine falcon, southern bald eagle, and yellow-billed cuckoo, is less than a quarter-mile from the site.[1]

The mine site has been implicated by the EPA in mercury pollution of Clear Lake, but the allegations are disputed by Bradley Mining Company, the last and current owner of the mine.[45]


While the EPA has taken mitigation measures on behalf of the Elem residents, we can probably assume they have not solved the problem completely. Imagine living through a series of housing displacements, 18 inches of soil replacement, and the like. Imagine returning to your home knowing that the toxins are still pervasive and are most likely causing real damage to your loved ones, knowing that the beautiful land and abundant fisheries of your ancestors is destroyed by greedy invaders.

Lake County has other challenges–the devastating fires of the last few years, including the largest in CA history. The toxic ash and retardant chemicals used to fight the fires are now part of our soil and watershed, and the produce in our kitchen gardens. They now lodge in our own tissues.

An array of climate change issues now affect us, no matter where we are on this planet. And we’re going to continue to suffer–unless we can take collective action to check this rapidly accelerating juggernaut of doom.

Activism

Yesterday people marched all over the world as “Rise for Climate, Jobs and Justice,” and there were thirty thousand at least in San Francisco (heating things up before the Global Climate Action Summit Sept. 12-14). Instead of marching in SF, I went to a meeting of Elders Climate Action in Ukiah. (I got in my gasoline powered car and drove about 100 miles round trip to do so. The irony…) Fortunately, several other Lake County residents were there, and I was so happy to meet them all.

The meeting began with a movie of Paul Hawkens presenting the results of Drawdown, an international project which studied, crunched numbers, and found 100 real, doable, science-based strategies to diminish climate change. This was a tremendous thing to see, with actual beacons of hope.

Three of the most unexpected results were education for girls (ranked #6–estimated 59.6 GIGATONS REDUCED CO2 by 2050) and empowerment of women through family planning (ranked #7–59.6 GIGATONS REDUCED CO2 by 2050) and as agricultural “smallholders (ranked #62–2.06 GIGATONS REDUCED CO2 by 2050).” Taken together, that’s a whopping 121.26 reduced gigatons, beating the effects of refrigerant management, ranked #1 at 89.74 GIGATONS REDUCED CO2 by 2050. From the Drawdown website:


Education lays a foundation for vibrant lives for girls and women, their families, and their communities. It also is one of the most powerful levers available for avoiding emissions by curbing population growth. Women with more years of education have fewer and healthier children, and actively manage their reproductive health.

Educated girls realize higher wages and greater upward mobility, contributing to economic growth. Their rates of maternal mortality drop, as do mortality rates of their babies. They are less likely to marry as children or against their will. They have lower incidence of HIV/AIDS and malaria. Their agricultural plots are more productive and their families better nourished.

Education also shores up resilience and equips girls and women to face the impacts of climate change. They can be more effective stewards of food, soil, trees, and water, even as nature’s cycles change. They have greater capacity to cope with shocks from natural disasters and extreme weather events.

Today, there are economic, cultural, and safety-related barriers that impede 62 million girls around the world from realizing their right to education. Key strategies to change that include:

make school affordable;
help girls overcome health barriers;
reduce the time and distance to get to school; and
make schools more girl-friendly.


That last sentence: “make schools more girl friendly…” Whoa! So cutting down on sexual harrassment, “slut shaming,” and misogyny in K-12 education is actually hugely important to reducing CO2 and reducing the acceleration of climate change!

As a sexologist, I am going to ponder this for a long time… I think there’s a contribution I can make to this, but what?

Thoughts on Community Organizing

In our Lake County break-out group, we introduced ourselves and shared some of the things we knew about or were involved in. We all looked white and were “older.”

One woman pointed out that much of the expertise tapped and touted in the Drawdown project came from people associated with institutions that have also been a huge part of this problem (major universities, etc.). She also felt that “spirituality” was missing (as indeed it was) and that indigenous leadership is key.

Drawdown did not ignore indigenous people, exactly: “Indigenous peoples’ land management” was ranked #39 (6.19 GIGATONS REDUCED CO2, 849.37 GIGATONS
CO2 PROTECTED by 2050). But I think their concerns could have been centered more. For example, in #39, Drawdown could have mentioned UNDRIP, the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People (which as far as I know, the U.S. has still not signed) as a key way to strengthen the position of indigenous people internationally.

I interpreted the woman’s remark as referring to the mindset (or soul set or heart set) of earth-centered, earth-aware peoples (who are most often indigenous peoples) versus the mindset of Western industrial consumer peoples (except for a smattering of Neo-pagans). I felt as if she was saying we cannot expect real solutions or progress to be made in the context of, or through continuing to focus on, those industrial/consumer mindsets and institutions. I agree.

One of our biggest problems is relational. Western consumers don’t acknowledge the life and awareness of all creatures as equal stakeholders. We don’t ask permission, we assume whatever we want is ours and so we take. We have no idea how to establish collaborative working relationships with the life and land around us and I think this affects us in our community organizing too.

And here’s where I cycle back to “woo” in this blog post. As a practicing polytheistic pagan I have been working hard in the last year to create and cultivate relationships with my deeply distant ancestors, in order to heal entire lineages. I feel this will help ground my activism in something other than my engrained Western consumer/settler-colonist mindset. And perhaps it will help unravel the multi-generational trauma of ancestors who most likely inflicted a lot of harm on others.

I also acknowledge the ancestors and “wights” of this place where I live right now: Pomo land. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not pretending to enact “native” practices. I just say hello to these unseen members of my community, every day, hoping that my occupation of this place is not too abrasive or harmful and apologizing if it is. And being willing to learn how to do things differently if necessary.

As I said, I was seated at the table with a lot of long-time activists, but we represented a particular demographic. I think our challenge in Lake County is to create a climate change coalition where we invite our Pomo neighbors and friends (and other people of color), but not as in an “oh goody, look, we have an indigenous person on our board, aren’t we cool?” way but as visionary elders and leaders who can hold the big picture of relational knowledge and practice, as well as insert what they want and need from the very start. The long-time (white) activists can serve as support team–as ally/accomplices who work our asses off to support the indigenous leadership as they create strategies to address climate change issues in this region. And the white activists should be prepared to make separate space to deal with our white people/settler-colonizer shit without exposing the indigenous folks to microaggression (or worse) and/or expect them to educate us.

I say this because these mindset issues, and the harm done by colonization and occupation, is one of the root causes of our consumerism and war mongering run amok, our rape of an entire planet, the harm done to its climate and ecosystems, and the destruction of whole groups of people. The men and women of Western “manifest destiny” and industrialization created a world-devouring cancer during the last 500 years, and how we deal with it now has to be different from how we created it. We white people can’t just throw our mess onto the indigenous elders now that we’re waking up to just how bad it is (“Hey, you guys were right all along. Sorry!”) and expect them to clean it up. It’s our mess. But indigenous and POC leadership must be integral. Their thoughts and needs must be woven through everything we do, as their vision will most likely be grounded in relationships and understanding of how to be truly human upon this earth of ours, ravaged as it is. And also because if we can release ourselves from the colonial mindset, those folks have a better chance of making and having a world they’d like to live in, for a change. And lets not forget, as many have borne the brunt of genocide, environmental injustices, and toxic exposures, we owe them our profound consideration at this critical juncture. Big time.

And I say this too–we need to make extra effort to include all the people who have been left out of the conversations taking place among the brilliant and well-intentioned elites, like those represented in the Drawdown project (which is amazing and I’m not dissing it), and out of many community organizing initiatives: kids, trans people, gender variant people, immigrants, poor people, the elderly, people with disabilities, all outsiders who have been previously ignored or pushed to one side. And those of us with privileges need to use them to invite and maximize participation for everyone. Solving the manifold problems of climate change is a mutual-aid effort that’s going to take all of us. All of us or none.

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