My Polytheism begins with Eros. He led me to Apollon, who led me to Hellenism. Then Eros, He led me to the traditions of Boeotia. He led me to the Hedonist philosophers, for their teachings ultimately begin with His daughter, Hedone.
My polytheism is devotional rituals, art, and music. It’s reading and studying mythology and philosophy and forming the cohesive teachings of Erotic Hedonism into a whole for the benefit of His people who’re led to it. Not everyone will be led to it, and in fact, it’s not for everyone, it’s not supposed to be, and that’s fine — it’s for the rejects who love beauty and happiness and pleasure and laughter from all the unexpected places, regardless of race, creed, sexuality, gender; Erotic Hedonism is Hellenism for beautiful freaks.
My polytheism places the highest of the Pantheon to be, in order, Nyx, Eros, Psykhe, Hedone, the Khairetes, the Moisai. Other Hellenic deities are worshipped in Their due, but the Pantheon of Erotic Hedonism places them above the rest.
Erotic Hedonism isn’t about me, it’s about the gods and helping others to see Eros and His family the way I do. It’s about taking the time to engage with those led to it. It’s about learning and connecting with the gods.
My polytheism gives a crap about who tries to claim that title, “polytheist”, but acknowledges that there’s pretty much fuck all I can do to stop egotistical atheists, short of reminding people what words mean. Words have more besides intent behind them, there’s a history, and with that, a magic. Still, it’s not my battle to fight; I can have an opinion without a calling to make it my mission to defend.
My polytheism rrcognises a multitude of gods, demigods, and spirits, even those I do not worship. Spirits of the land, sky, sea, and city. Spirits of song and if story — Batman is certainly some kind of real spirit created of the 20th Century American superhero comic books, but I would hesitate to put him on the same level as a god, though it’s not my place to day that with certainty.
There are two items on this list that strike me as very cis-supremacist in how they advocate address talking to and thinking about trans people.
“My gender is mine, not a mere identity!”
“My pronouns are MINE not a ‘preference’.”
The thing is, everyone, cis, trans, or otherwise, has a gender identity and preferred names and pronouns, but only cis people are socially permitted to take these things for granted by identifying these things about themselves as something somehow just self-evident and not debatable, and by being allowed to misuse terms like “identity” and “preference” as dismissals of a the identities and preferences of trans people as somehow less-important or less-valid. The problem with modifying the cis model I have just described is not just that it vehemently misuses words in the context of trans people (after all, ask cis people about their sexual preferences, especially with regards to whether or not they’re attracted to people they know to be trans, and suddenly “preferences” are something that must necessarily be respected!) but it positions the cis experience of being able to take things like their gender identity and their preferences in name and pronoun for granted as an ideal and default model that trans people should strive for.
While I certainly understand that the person who wrote the text in the image had good intentions behind it, it still betrays an inherently cissupremacist view of how one interacts with their gender in everyday life, and practically obligates trans people to imitate cis people, even if only in thought, in order to have their gender, including the identity aspect of their gender, taken seriously. This is just more “Passing! Is! Life!” bollocks presented in a form ostensibly more palatable, because it stresses aping cis minds rather than cis bodies.
What pains me most about this image going around FaceBook, which is where I found it, is that I first found it from someone who ostensibly (judging from their regularly shared links and whatnot) subscribes to radical politics, and, being a friend I even first met offline, is a person I know to care fuck all for whether or not they physically “pass”, because they are who they are, and what’s most important to them, is being happy with their own body, so while it does still bother them to be misgendered in public, it’s not something that bothers them as much as they imagine it would the person who has dedicated significant time and effort to do everything in their powers to look cis.
Where is an inherent classism in physically “passing” as cisgender for trans people. This is especially true for many trans women, where to be able to assimilate, it’s generally desired to have extensive surgeries, including facial feminisation and various body-sculpting procedures, to undo the effects of a testosterone-dominant puberty. These are procedures generally not covered by insurances, and are very hard, if not impossible, for those below a certain socio-economic class to safe for, much less afford outright. A lot of trans men will still devote practically part-time-work hours a week in the gym to masculinise their bodies, even before HRT, and though less common, it’s certainly not unheard of for trans men to seek silicone implants to create a more “sculpted” or muscular-looking appearance to their physique; gym memberships cost money, and putting them to use necessitates a privilege of time, and such surgeries are absolutely not covered by any major insurance. A whole new wardrobe, including good wigs and haircut, cost money, which may not necessarily be readily available.
There is an inherent ableism to transgender passing politics, as well. Aside from the fact that those of us whose primary income is disability allowance are at a sharp economic disadvantage, surgeries may be unobtainable for reasons of anxiety disorder. Gym use, or even exercising off YouTube channels at home, may be unattainable for physical disability reasons, sensory disorders can inhibit clothing and haircut choices.
It should also be obvious how sexism plays into the inherent politics of physically passing, as well, if only for demanding an adherence to certain mid-20th Century stereotyping on how men and women “should” look. More specifically, this is cissexism, in that it doesn’t press these expectations as hard on cis people, if at all, for the simple fact that cis people are allowed to take their gender identities for granted, allowing them more freedoms of expression (at least with cis women, where performing more masculine expressions is typically less-brutally penalised than in men, and those a society may perceive as men performing femininity).
many trans people, especially on the Internet, are very quick to call all this out, and more (like inherent racisms, which I don’t even know how to describe adequately for this piece), but when it comes to how we address our gender, including preferences of expression, in WORDS rather than body and clothing, cissexism is not only ignored, it’s encouraged!
Trans people applaud each-other for “taking a stand against cissexism” by advocating that we ape cis people n how we talk to ourselves and others about gender:
“We simply have a gender, which is inherent and ours; saying we have a gender identity is just a sneaky way of telling us that we don’t.”
“My pronouns are not a preference, they are mandatory!”
“It’s not my preferred name, it’s MY name!”
These are things we’d expect cis people to say if we pointed out to them that they, too, have a gender identity, and preferences of name and pronouns — and not without reason, because society has conditioned them to take these things for granted, so they don’t feel obligated to actually think about the reality of the situation of how identifying with the gender one was assigned at birth is, indeed, a gender identity that is no more or less valid than a trans person’s identity; nor do they feel obligated to think about how, as a cis man, one would certainly prefer to be called “he” as opposed to “she” or “ze”; nor do they feel obligated to consider how one might prefer to be called “Pat” when their given and legal name is “Patricia”, or how one might prefer their childhood nickname of “Bull” over their given name of “Nostradamus Shannon”.
I therefore posit that is is the radical position not to ape cis people, but to remind them, daily, hourly, if necessary, that they, too, have a gender identity, a pronoun preference, and a preferred name, even if these all line up with the gender, pronouns, and name one was assigned at birth. They are not allowed to take these things for granted any more than white people should be allowed to take for granted that, in the first 60+ years of Western commercial filmmaking, leading and primary supporting characters were about 90% Caucasoid, no more than cis men should be allowed to take for granted that almost every Fortune 500 name is male.
African Americans, Southern and Eastern Asian races, and Indigenous Americans have never fought racism by assimilating and not challenging white people on their racist ideas.
The disabled don’t fight ableism by letting the comforts and conveniences of the able-bodied be taken for granted without a challenge to make spaces for our needs, as well (how else do you think wheelchair-accessible toilets and handicapped parking spaces happened? Definitely not cos the chair-bound just sat around and waited for the benevolence of the walking world!)
Sexism is not fought by denying the differences of experience between how men and women are treated, but by acknowledging those differences, sharing them, and challenging men on their sexism.
The United States in the Twentieth Century is a prime example of how pretending there is no difference between the opportunities offered to different socio-economic classes just doesn’t work in fighting classism, but instead strengthens it. Only by challenging classism can it be fought.
So why do those who espouse radical beliefs in those and other areas, indeed those most likely to identify themselves as having radical politics, take such a shine to the notion that the best way to fight cissexism is by ignoring the aspects of identity and preferences, with regards to one’s gender and its expression? Wouldn’t that just be letting cissexism go unchallenged while also pressing trans people into adopting another form of passing for cis?
I find the denial of gender identity and preferences of address to be counterintuitive to accepting the lived knowledge of our experiences.
Identity is only one piece of our personal genders. We also have roles, which may vary somewhat by society, but in the West are almost universal. We also have expression, which encompasses not simply how we dress, but also mannerisms, interests, and even preferences of pronoun and name. How we identify our sexuality (which is different from sexual orientation) may also reflect another aspect of our gender; I’ve certainly been in enough conversations with homosexual and homoflexible women who prefer to identify as “gay” rather than “lesbian”, because of certain nuances and also of the subcultures associated with those terms, though some such women may also use the terms interchangeably. Gender is multi-faceted, and in many (if not most) people, is fluid and malleable, in at least one aspect, and not a static constant throughout one’s life; as a quick example, YouTube personality Chris Crocker seems to generally identify as male, but certainly has a fluid sense of gender expression.
If we let the way cis people take their gender identities and preferences of expression for granted, especially if we seek to ape that ourselves, as trans people, we’re letting cissexism win. Cissexism is more than just expecting cisnormativity in trans people, it’s also a thought pattern that idealises a cis experience as a default, and this includes the unchallenged ability to take their identities for granted. We simply cannot fight cissexism without challenging the most insidious ways it permeates the dialogue about gender.
When we say “don’t refer to it as a gender identity, it’s just gender,” we are giving preferential treatment to the cis experience by mimicking how cis people talk about their own gender identities.
When we say “don’t refer to ‘preferred pronouns’… — they are MANDATORY,” in addition to the bizarre notion that “preference,” not “optional,” is somehow the opposite of “mandatory,” we’re saying that the cis experience is preferred to the trans experience, and we are reinforcing this by mimicking the way cis people talk about their own preferred pronouns.
Trans, non-binary, and Intersex people are not the only ones with “gender identities” and “preferred names and pronouns” — cis people have these identities and preferences, as well. While it may seem appealing to mimic this denial of experience that cis people are allowed by society, doing so only reinforces cissexism by positioning it as the only valid way to think about one’s gender and expression.
“Nontheistic theism” literally means “a belief about gods without gods”. No amount of doublespeak can make that anything but a contradiction. Ergo, to call “nontheistic polytheism,” in any way, “polytheism”[3 is a gross display of intellectual dishonesty, at most, or just a case of stupidity via “special snowflake” syndrome, at least.
While many words are, by nature, flexible, they still mean things. While a living language must remain relevant to remain, there’s a phrase relatively common to English:
Don’t keep your mind so open your brain falls out.
“Nontheistic theism” is therefore a performance of doublespeak to confuse and control.
One is either a nontheist or a theist. It’s like claiming to be both a giant and a dwarf, simultaneously; it is literally impossible to be both at once. While one could, hypothetically, cite the extraordinary case of Adam Rainer, the only person on record to’ve been, as an adult, classified first as a dwarf, and then as a giant, by his doctors, he never existed as both, simultaneously — first he was a dwarf, standing 3’10½”, then he was a giant at 7’8″. I have a mild form of acondroplasia, resulting in slightly disproportioned limb-to-torso size proportions, a distinct form of spinal curvature, and a bowing to my knees — but at 4’11”, I am literally an inch too tall to be a dwarf, and I am a far cry from being a giant; to call myself a “giant dwarf” may be a cute oxymoron I might say in jest amongst friends who know of that condition I have, the reality is that I am neither, but I’m closest to being the latter half of that phrase (dwarf), as I have one of the conditions commonly associated with dwarfism.
I get that polytheism is all cool and stuff, right now (and having been interviewed through a handful of pagan and polytheist outlets, I wouldn’t be surprised if my name had a tiny spark in fostering that, though there are absolutely bigger names than mine, in that regard), and certain people desperately want to be a part of our movement — can’t say that I blame them, we’re cool as shit, but like dwarfism to myself, they’re technically not polytheists, though they may use certain language of polytheism in their own spirituality (I hesitate to call a practise without real theism “religion”, but given the common euphemistic uses of “doing a thing religiously”, I’ll give people who would call it that an understanding). Hopefully, like Hot Topic in 2005, they’ll discover “the money” is in something new and different, and drop their appropriation and misuse of our movement for something else, as they acknowledge that their heart wasn’t as much into polytheism as it was into grasping for relevancy attached to their name within the greater pagan social movement.
A friend of mine is childfree. He doesn’t want children for a number of reasons, most important being, he doesn’t like them. He made the choice some years ago (well, at least a decade-plus, now) to have a vasectomy. He has several members of his family who are very fundamentalist Christian, and believe it’s everyone’s good Christian duty to procreate, at least enough to replace themselves; whilst he and I have no issue with this belief, in and of itself, as long as people don’t try and push it onto the unwilling, but we both believe that it is, to varying extents, irresponsible to bring more children in this world than necessary when the population is reaching critical mass — but this is a philosophical point that is, of course, another story for another time. When he’s been at reunions with his family, there’s always at least one person who tells him that he’s going against “[their] God’s will” by having had a vasectomy.
Now, my friend, let’s call him Bill (it’s a variant of his name, though he doesn’t go by that), went out to have his vasectomy, but there was a co-pay on his insurance of a couple hundred dollars. He had no issue paying this, but they were going to send him the bill later. His bill never arrived, but the late notice to pay it, with late fees, did, so he sent out the cheque. A month or two later, he noticed that his cheque never cashed, so he called the hospital to see if there was a problem. The person he’d talked to said that their records showed that he’d paid in full, on time, and was actually due a refund for overpayment.
This is relevant, because he brings up this story every time a wacky Christian family member decides to tell him his vasectomy is against “god’s plan” — clearly some god or another had decided that Bill was correct in his choice not to put any children on this world, and thus offered to reward him.
Now, I bring up Bill because when I first started transitioning — hell, even still, my primary income is Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), and he knows that pays just enough to keep a person off the streets — if one is lucky to get even that much. When I first started, while he’d known for years that this was a long time coming, his concern was for my finances, so I pointed out several facts about my own transition:
Prior my chest surgery, my bra size was 38K. Standing at 4’11” with measurements, at the time, at about 62-28-38, this made them roughly the size of my own head. Medicare covered this surgery under a loophole necessitating that it be billed as a “breast reduction” and performed by a surgeon willing to do FTM chest recon whilst billing this as the essentially identical (save for the amount of tissue removed, the basics of the procedures are identical), but covered, procedure. I paid nothing out-of-pocket. Not even for my nipple revision
For some reason, Medicare was covering my ‘mones before Medicare officially covered ANY trans procedures. I still don’t know how that happened, but getting a ten-dose vial approximately once every other month, since October of 2007, my Medicare D co-pay had been $1.20/vial, has totalled $64.80 — this has been over the course of nine year, and he first brought up this concern to be about three years ago, when it had cost me a total of $43.20.
Over the last two years, I’ve also discovered that while Michigan’s legal name-change would cost in the area of $350, out-of-pocket, being a disabled person whose primary income is SSDI, this is covered by the State, for certain qualifying reasons — including gender confirmation. While I technically still had to pay the fingerprinting fees, my lawyer, who is doing this as a pro-bono assignment, decided to reimburse me the $15 fee out of petty cash.
About two years ago, Medicare finally approved gender confirmation procedures. This means when I’m finally up on the waiting list for my hysterectomy and vaginectomy, this, too, will be covered, as well as any genital reconfiguration I may choose, after that.
To date, I haven’t even paid $75 for my transition, even during the six or seven years, in theory, nothing was being covered.
I then reminded Bill of his vasectomy, and how, due to hospital error (and potential Powers That Be), he actually got paid to get it done. Since my own transition was carefully documented on government forms, it’s unlikely anyone will be paying me my $65 back, with interest or whatnot, but still, clearly this is something that –even at a time it “shouldn’t have been covered– I paid almost nothing for it.
He conceded, suggesting, “well, you being [polytheist] and all, there’s clearly Someone out there Who wants you to do this, so I guess I stand corrected.”
With all the talk of TERFs making the rounds in the Pagan and Polytheist blogospheres, again, I just hoped to add a positive story.
May Hermaphroditos, and also The Great Mother and Her consort, Pan1, continue to see me through this.
Fry: Bender, why did you do it? We were all so happy!
Leela: And we were in love!
Bender: Phhff! That wasn’t love!
Fry: What!? How can you say that?
Bender: Because Bender knows love. And love doesn’t share itself with the world! Love is suspicious. Love is needy. Love is fearful. Love is greedy. My friends, THERE IS NO GREAT LOVE WITHOUT GREAT JEALOUSY!!! Bender hugs Fry and Leela by the necks, choking them
Bender: I love you meatbags!
On my own path, at least at this time, it’s certainly expected of me to recognise the existence of other gods, but worship, even in the most seemingly-benign sense as taking part in the chanting and Baghavad Gita discussion after otherwise-mooching some free food at the Hare Krishna house, when my foodstamps were all but cut off, back in November 2014, is not something I’m allowed to do, at least not at this time.
I was actually having a “good day”, that evening, with regards to my back pain, but when handed a tambourine after the meal, and starting with the chanting, a nerve pinched mid-back, where I don’t typically experience pain, and don’t recall ever experiencing it in that area before, or since. This did not end until I took what I decided was the polite amount of time, suffering through it, and left the house for my shift at WCBN. It’s hard not to read that as a warning against messing ariound with Gods to Whom I don’t belong.
I can’t deny that other people have paths that allow them to officiate for, or even make some sense of contact with other gods — and that’s great, and I respect their path in that. It would also be wrong for me to deny my experiences, though, which are all telling me that this is how I’m supposed to worship, at this stage in my life; maybe this could change, in the future, and I’m certainly allowed to respect Krishna, and the homes of those who are His, but beyond that, I’ve been reigned in, and I’m good with that.
If you are interested in my interview with Ruth, you may read it here. The commentary however is telling of a wider dialogue. One that our community needs to have. One I tried to facilitate unsuccessfully.
Seems there’s a bit of a nontroveresy over this, which would be apparent by simply reading the whole of an article, as opposed to taking the word of an infantilizing self-appointed propagandist and failed “cult leader”, who need not be named.
This is my final word on the matter, as I have already stated on the FB companion page, if the only way I can keep this philosophy relevant is by creating shit to stir, then I have failed this philosophy, Eros Himself, and my own life. I actually feel really bad for people so consumed by their own quest for a need to have power over a small, and notably shrinking circle of yes-men that they can only feign contentment by creating a bizarre and contradictory “Us or Them” party line whilst obstinately accusing others of the same, regardless of the evidence.
Putting any more thought into this matter, in any way, is contradictory to the pursuit of life’s pleasures.
Today, I played a new game, I had ice cream, sold a hundred buttons to the burger place up the street, ordered a personal-size pizza, played with a rat I’m fostering, wrote new songs, recorded myself singing on the street-corner by the Dairy Queen and posted it to Patreon, really took in how my legs feel in velveteen yoga pants, and talked to Eros about where this should all be going. Over this last week, I struck a deal with Erato and Euterpe that if I practice and start recording on my harmonium, They could help with my data recovery. Right now, I’m going to have that jar of raspberry sorbet that is crowding up my freezer, and later this weekend, I’m getting an antique 1930s cast iron floor lamp for my birthday from my friends at the antique store.
Life without pleasure is drudgery and torture, and a life with the willing engagement of pain is even worse.
Engage whatever pleasures made available to us, avoid all pains we possibly can. This is the first lesson of Erotic Hedonism.
When first published in 1968, The UK’s Gay Times reviewed the first memoir of Quentin Crisp, The Naked Civil Servant, their reviewer scathingly citing Crisp as a “bad example”, stating the book “should have been published posthumously”.
He was a high femme gender-bender.
When the UK’s Stonewall group launched in the 1980s, Derek Jarman had some words about its organisers and supporters, folks like Ian McKellan, who kept their sexuality closeted until it couldn’t hurt their careers (I imagine he, like myself, would have made more than a few words about George Takei’s opportunistic reinvention of himself as THE Gay of B-list celebs at a time when it actually could, and did, give his career a boost). In fact, I’ll reprint some:
THE PEACE OF ANONYMITY – STONEWALL WAS A RIOT
The queers of the sixties, like those since, have connived with their repression under a veneer of respectability. Good mannered city queers in suits and pinstripes, so busy establishing themselves, were useless at changing anything.
To be Queer was never respectable – even though you wore a suit. The more conventional, the more desperate the hidden life. Pushed to the fringes, our world existed in the twilight of Heterosoc1reality. and if anyone raised their voice in protest they were accused of endangering the peace of anonymity. A demonstration was likely to frighten the closeted, their inactivity reproached.
Stonewall was a RIOT which occurred in the summer of 1969 in Christopher Street, New York, outside a bar of the same name. For the first time Queers fought back with bricks and bottles and empty beer glasses and burned cars. The best fighters were the trannies2 – a dress was a badge of courage. The riot sparked a revolution in our consciousness. A community of interest was established and a debate was entered. The harder it was fought the more our case was furthered.
Everything that made our world visible reproached the closeted. One day it might be as silly as moaning about Quentin Crisp’s blue rinse as a BAD ROLE MODEL, or, on another, complaining of a rowdy Gay Liberation Front meeting. For them, we were not them. They took everything and did nothing, sat in their interior decoration, attended the opera and did fuck all to help change; their minds as starched as their shirts.
Twenty years later, Stonewall – the self-elected and self-congratulating parliamentary lobbying group – have made more than enough compromise with convention. Did those who rioted at the Stonewall bar fightso that we could so easily be co-opted by a gay establishment? Do they represent our best interests in Heterosoc?
Do they represent us?
Why did one man go to Downing Street to put our case? Why were there no women? Weren’t the rest of us acceptable? It was as if no Queer had ever been in number 10 before, the fuss everyone made.
Part of the con was to steal the name Stonewall and turn our riot into their tea party. We are now integrated into the worst form of British hetero politic – the closed room, the gentlemen’s club – where decisions are made undemocratically for an ignorant population which enjoys emasculation.
So they 0 Stonewall – won’t acknowledge this criticism. They’ll pretend there isn’t a debate. The only way that they can succeed in their politics is through the myth of homogenity and the ‘gay community’. But our lives are plural. They always have been – sexuality is a diversity. Every orgasm brings its own liberty.
— Derek Jarman, At Your Own Rish: A Saint’s Testament, 1992
By forcing a homogenous narrative onto the trans community —by insisting that there’s no difference between us and cis people, by discouraging a plurality of thoughts and experiences and ideas of individual trans people— we are expecting anti-radicalism of the worst kind in our community. By telling us, explicitly or even implicitly, that those of us who are simultaneously a binary and non-binary gender that we’re somehow only really the latter is to throw us under the bus for the sake of respectability.
Furthermore, believe it or not, it is entirely possible to say “we have a fundamentally unique experience of our genders as trans women and trans men from that of cis people, but that does not automatically exclude us from deserving the same rights to space.
Sexuality is a plurality, and so is gender. Equal rights and equal access does not and should not erase differences for an assimilationist narrative of trans experience.
I’m really tired of white cis people cissplaining my transgender politics to me. This is something I have been working on within myself, constantly evaluating and re-assessing, exploring, debating, and meditating on for going on twenty years!
The fact of the matter is, TERFs are the ones who’ve perverted our celebration of our differences for their own despicable purposes, as an act of terrorism against trans people, effectively forcing an anti-Queer assimilationist narrative onto the “Voices” of trans justice. I’m sorry-not-sorry, but I’m not going to sit on my hands and let those thumping an assimilationist party line at me, be they other trans people or (ostensibly well-meaning) cis people who want an ally badge, scare me into erasing my differences because Ruth Barrett and others can’t handle the existence of a paradox and the simple scientific fact that paradoxes are a part of nature.
1: Heterosexual society
2: At the time Derek Jarman wrote this, “tranny” was an acceptable term in the queer community as a term of camaraderie and empowerment amongst trans folk and gender-bending gays. This is not a slurred usage, this is historical.
Nature is not perfect. This may seem absurd to your average pagan, but bear with me:
Consider the design of human beings is really inefficient. Compared to other mammals close to our size, or even in our genus, our infants are born especially helpless and underdeveloped. Plus, our backs aren’t very well-suited for walking upright without assistance — not in the long term; we can manage it when very young, but after the age of thirty, a Posture Pal can’t really help us (fun fact for goths, though: The best period in human posture was the era of the corsets — a majority of men wore them, too, until the Edwardian). I know my friend Scott and others with a background in biology have discussed this in greater detail. As a “finished product”, human beings are very poorly designed, we may not even be good enough to submit as a working prototype, by some standards. Hell, if I was a television, I would’ve been replaced at the age of 24 due to all the design flaws being too much to take — and I’d only been put on the shelf at age 19! Definitely not one of those heavy-duty 1950s sets that took about two months to build, and will still work, today. Any design that takes as long to reach an ideal state as my own physical body, but is barely functioning five years later doesn’t stay in production for long.
And pandas have the internal biology for an obligate carnivore, but their diet is 90%+ vegetarian — the mother’s milk is so lacking in vital nutrients that they have the highest infant mortality rate of large mammals.
Even plants, while certainly better-designed than large, multicellular animals, there are certainly a lot of issues that can appear, when you really know what you’re looking at. Many plants native to the same places and the same habitats — some will need significantly more water or sunshine, others won’t. Laurel and rosemary are very well-adapted to periodic droughts of their native Mediterranean, but oregano and sage, also native to Greece, need water, daily, and more than you’d probably think. Part of this may be due to cultivation by humans, but not all of it, since humans have been messing around with the genetics of plants since the dawn of agriculture, and will generally aim for two goals: 1) How do we make this thing more-edible, and 2) how do we make it hardier, so it can put up with us? I mean, do you know how easy it is to drown rosemary? Easier than underwatering sage, I’ll say that much.
There’s even an ancient truism about the olive tree: An olive tree can shed and disperse a thousand seeds a year for a thousand years, and maybe only a dozen trees will come of it; true, not every tree can survive, but for such a “perfect” creation to spread so many imperfect seeds suggests an internal flaw, as mortals understand “perfection”, which is all we can really understand. It just doesn’t speak to a “perfect” design, is speaks to Someone being stubborn and saying “nope, it’s mine and I’ll fix it on my terms — in the meantime, I’ll get back to smiting those people for that clockwork horror in the 1982 Clash of the Titans.”
The Gods have their own ideas about what to do with things here on Earth, and are constantly tinkering around. “Perfect” is for New Age Christianity — it’s generally unattainable on the mortal level, in all areas. Our realm definitely hosts things that are very impressive, but the Gods Who concern Themselves with our physical world are the artists Who’re never fully satisfied with what turns out, so when They think of improvements, They go and adjust. That’s kind of antithesis to “perfection”, perfect works need no improvements, they’re already perfect. There may be a method to the madness, but it’s definitely far from perfect.
I realise the very slight relative privilege I have in this as a transsexual male (even a transvestive one), and most (though certainly not all) of the people I’ve noticed doing this in the last twenty years have been trans female or otherwise on the MTF spectrum, but it’s something I feel needs to be said:
Stop appropriating other cultures’ traditions of gender-variance.
This isn’t just a matter of white trans women calling themselves “hijra” when they are not even converts to Hinduism. Nor is this just a matter of white trans men calling themselves “Two Spirits” because they went to a sham sweatlodge at Burning Man.
This is also a matter about re-writing deities and Their ancient priesthood traditions to suit your modern agenda.
While it may be easy to work out one’s pet theories onto ancient traditions, the fact of the matter is, no-one alive today is really a part of those pre-Christian cultures, not even Western pagans and polytheists who can, at best, approximate this in a merely semi-removed subculture. We aren’t talking to these people to judge whether or not our experiences are close enough to claim we’re part of the same tradition. Just because ancient, pre-Christian Greece is different enough from modern Greece that it may seem easy to argue that the cultures are two different things doesn’t make the culture up for grabs to appropriate and repurpose for our own agendas.
The second we arbitrarily give a pass to the appropriation of one culture, for whatever reason, we open the floodgates.
After all, many Lakota are Christians, now, and their traditional culture infamously suppressed, so does that make their Two Spirit traditions up for grabs? I mean, if you want to get technical, “two spirit” probably isn’t even a real thing, you know? It’s just the English-language umbrella term that encompasses a wide variety of gender-variant roles amongst dozens of Indigenous American tribes, right?
If you can argue that ancient gallai are up for grabs to appropriate and re-write their traditions and mythos for your own agenda, then why?
Broken traditions are up for grabs? I think you’ll get some side-eye from MANY groups of indigenous people who’ve had to reclaim and relearn their traditions from historic record. Hell, why not just tell the Cornish speakers of the world that their traditional language is up to redefine and appropriate because linguists insist that it’s a broken tradition when it’s not, really —take it from someone whose grandfather’s native language was a pidgin of English and Kernewek.
This is why polytheism without engaging the native cultures of our pantheons on some meaningful level is problematic, at its very best, and unfortunately, the slippery-slope, in this instance, is not a fallacy — it’s a legitimate grievance I have with other transgender people, especially in polytheist and pagan communities. By assuming it’s OK to appropriate from cultures that we’re not a part of, for any reason, we’re sending out a signal that we think it’s OK, and that any other indigenous culture is up for grabs, next, at our whims.
But hey, I get it —this helps you feel like you’re a part of something ancient, and therefore like it gives you and your gender/s an air of legitimacy, so it’s all good, right?
Yeah, it doesn’t work that way.
While true that trans people have always existed, we have to look at the root for what that even means:
“Trans”, Latin for “on the other side of” or, to be more specific, on the side away from Rome, which in ancient Roman times, Rome was the default of all that was “good” and “civilized”. At its root, to be transgender is to live a gendered experience away from what mainstream society would consider the default.
That’s all we have evidence of, prior the suppression of gender-variance by Christianity — “trans people” whose experience of gender was away from the default experience of their gender assignment. We have little real evidence of ancient people who were at all like the modern notion of trans women and trans men, and that which does exist was written by outsiders to the experience (even the case of Emperor Elagabalus needs to be taken with a grain of salt, as the only claim that he sought a surgeon who could transform his body into a woman’s was written after he’d died, and by one of his staunchest critics, meaning there’s just as much likelihood, if not more, that it was a political smear).
The biological etiology of trans people is irrelevant. Not only do we lack any cadavers to afford us the most compelling evidences, the arguments from HBSers and their ilk to stress the importance of finding what they’d consider “biological legitimacy” ignore a very basic fact of medical biology: There is never just one potential cause for a condition. While there were certainly trans people whose biologies bore many of the same traits as many trans people, today, we simply cannot say how many shared those biological traits, nor can we say how many chose, say, the path of the gallae in lieu of modern medical technology and how many others simply chose a different path.
It’s nigh impossible to make an accurate comparison of modern trans people to ancient gender-variant paths. To even plant a suggestion that the two pages in history are making the same statements is absurdly appropriative, because the first page only survives in a few small fragments.
I find it highly telling that pretty much every trans person, trans woman or otherwise, I’ve seen make this appropriative claims to traditions it is impossible for them to be a part of, is white or white-passing. It’s not at all uncommon for white people to see a thing that they have no right to, and claim it as something they can use for their own purposes. Maybe they’re even doing what they feel is “sufficient research”, but then again, so are a lot of white people who are running illegitimate sweat lodges. You can’t research your way into a tradition — you are only initiated into them by another!
By appropriating ancient traditions for a socio-political agenda, one sets a bad precedent, and sends out a strong message to indigenous people: You’re next. Maybe not today, tomorrow, next week, or next year, but rest assured, you’re next. As soon as I decide I haven’t heard much about your people are doing with your traditions of gender variance, I will arbitrarily decide how much is “enough research” to appropriate your traditions, so you’re next.
Please think about this.
— Ruadhán Jarman-McElroy
PS: I was really disappointed to see such an appropriative person is writing here, because since last I checked, the core team of Gods & Radicals are very much against such a thing as racism, but I’ve also noted that another recent piece there was little more than a thesis against modernity which, as per Rhyd’s controversial page (and pretty much the same words from Amy Hale and likewise parroted by other fans of hers) is one of the checkpoints for fascist vulnerabilities (if not outright fascism). I guess I’m saying that I’m no longer sure what purpose G&R is serving, as we see post after post from Rhyd (on G&R, his personal blog, and on FaceBook) and others in the core staff about the relationship between overt racism and the actions of racist society that those with racial privilege, even without overtly racist beliefs, are at risk of committing, and Capitalism — but this is given a pass, unchecked, when they’re a staff writer. We also see similar, in post after post, about how Fascism is a byproduct of Capitalism, and these warning signs of fascist potential need to be addressed and scrutinized — but this, too, is given a pass, when the writer is working for G&R. I mean, I like Rhyd, as a person, but I’m getting increasingly confused about what his vision for this webzine even is.