This is one of the many issues that has been on my mind lately: the idea that you can ‘prove’ that there are not problems of heteronormativity, monosexism, and cisexism in the Pagan and polytheist communities because, “We have queers!” Any critical thought shows that for the poor argument it is, but I still see it time and again…and again…and again.
Modern Pagandom has a pretty clear, obvious, and historical problem with dissent. Or, at least, dissent that isn’t painted in a flowery, “I disagree but we all bleed red,” sentiment. Directly calling out homophobia and trans*phobia will earn you…interesting reactions, to say the least. The community goes through these spats every few months when a minority within the ‘wider community’ tries to assert itself and is pretty heartlessly told to shut up for the sake of solidarity. (After all, we don’t know what we really are, or what heteronormativity really is, or what trans*phobia really is, and how dare we be so mean to the elders that are engaging in this behavior?!) The excuses/reasoning is the same every time, for every issue. Sometimes there isn’t even an attempt at the ‘we have an [x] person with us!’ and it is flat out stated, often against what the minority or frustrated group will tell you, that Paganism is ‘so welcoming to everyone’.
Yes, because modern Paganism is so accepting of Pagans who incorporate Christ into their practices. Yes, because modern Paganism is so accepting of Luciferians (those who identify as Pagans). Yes, because modern Paganism is so good at respecting cultural boundaries and fighting appropriation.
Well, if that’s what modern Paganism really was, I might be able to tolerate calling myself one.
Let’s face it: Pagan and polytheist movements aren’t perfect, and we need to stop pretending they are. We need to stop pretending that it’s only ‘extremists’ who do crappy things. We’ve very, very competently created our own monsters; we’ve done it so well that nobody wants to accept they can engage in behavior like homophobia or misogyny (“We’re a GODDESS religion!” come the shrieks). We’ve been so unchallenging of ourselves that, for the large part, it is still worse to be called homophobic than it is to actually be homphobic. It’s worse to be caught pointing out problematic language and ideas than it is to promote those ideas.
(And don’t think this behavior is limited to homophobia or trans*phobia. Try having a discuss about mental health and see where that takes you.)
If you’re promoting the gender binary and gender conformity and gender essentialism as ‘how the world is’, erasing thousands of people, you shouldn’t be too surprised when people point out that, actually, there’s more than two genders. I can hear the biological ‘gender’ arguments now, off in the distance…and you’re still wrong. It’s a bit disconcerting to hear people expound on how they are a nature religion yet go on to state that there are only two genders when that just isn’t true. Not to mention, in nature there is hardly an ever-present assumption that male=powerful and female=submissive (oh, wait, we’re using ‘active’ and ‘passive’ now aren’t we?). But wait, there’s more! The idea that often goes with this gender binary/conformity is that of male-female creating the perfect balance, again often said to be ‘natural’. Except, again, a nature show on any station would prove that such isn’t really true.
I’m not saying your theology is wrong and you have to change your religion. I’m saying you need to stop acting like it is the ~truth~ or that nature (don’t even get me started on the romanticization of that) is stuck in a heteronormative binary.
But back to what I really want to focus on: just because you are friends with a queer* person, or there is a gay person in your coven, does not magically make your heteronormative gender binary…not a heteronormative gender binary. You’re still describing it as ‘god’ and ‘goddess’ and coding it as ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ and placing on emphasis on needing those ‘two genders’ to create [whatever you're creating]. If that’s your religion or theology, fine. But own it. Stop trying to magically say it isn’t because ‘we have a queer!’
People are still going to take issue with it, of course, but if you actually want to change so that it isn’t a heteronormative gender binary? You have to actually change something. If you don’t want to change it, don’t. Just don’t lie about what it really is.