On his Facebook page, Devin recently posted, “The casual homophobia in occultism needs to stop,” and my friend Chase responded, “Reminds me of the astral penis,” to which I replied, “You mean the phantom penis.”
And then I realized that all of Devin’s followers were now staring blankly at their screens. And I was like, “Okay, yeah, I should probably provide some kind of details here.”
In looking back over the whole, bloody debacle, it’s clear that the biggest mistake we made was “asking” rather than “doing.” See, my buddy Sphinx and I thought it might be fun to start a social/discussion group for gay male Pagans in the Houston area, so what we should have done was chosen a date, time, and place, and then sent out an announcement. Instead, we decided to see if anyone else was interested before we moved forward, and so we posted an inquiry on a local Pagan listserv.
Like the historic invasions of Ireland, the responses came in waves.
Condemnation. By expressing the intent to form a group for like-minded individuals with common interests and experiences, we were being divisive and separatist. And we were actively destroying the community. Demons, the both of us.
An animated discussion between several self-styled “hag fags” [Ed. note: They meant “fag hags,” which is, y’know, almost but not quite as offensive] about how much they love “their gays.” Finding strength in solidarity, they proclaimed that they would be joining us, regardless of whether or not we wanted them there.
General consensus that this theoretical group for gay male Pagans will be open to everyone. Sphinx and I replied that no, actually, we’d like to keep things limited to gay men in the beginning, which was met with…
Condescension. It’s so cute when the gays try to think for themselves, but really, we know what’s best for you, bless your sexually deviant hearts. Sphinx and I reiterated that once the group got off the ground, we’d maybe open things up a bit, but for now, we really wanted to create a space for gay men, and the women clapped back by patting us on our little heads and plowing ahead with the planning.
Straight men began denouncing us as exclusionary. They would never be caught dead at a gay event, mind you, but the fact that we weren’t inviting them in the first place meant that we were oppressing them. Or something. I stopped paying attention when one of them started ranting about gay versus straight water fountains.
At the height of the fracas, a woman — let’s call her Viola — informed us that we were required to grant her admittance, because she was a gay man trapped in a woman’s body. Sphinx and I did our best to explain that, no, that did not actually make her a gay man, and Viola replied that yes, in fact, it did, because she had (I swear to the Gods I’m not making this up) an invisible, “phantom limb” penis.
And oh, it got her into all sorts of trouble, that penis did. Because (direct quote) you know how gay men are. Thinking with their dicks or whatever. Like she does. With her mighty spirit wang.
I want to make something abundantly clear here. Viola was not trans (trans men are men) or non-binary, nor was she struggling with gender dysphoria: She was openly, ardently, and very comfortably cisgender and heterosexual. But her privilege was unchecked, and she assumed that she could elbow her way into a group to which she did not belong by identifying as a stereotype.
Like, she honestly thought that calling us slutty would force us to accept her as part of the tribe. And man, did she get pissed at us when it didn’t work.
On the upside, a guy messaged us backchannel and was like, “I’m gay and would like to participate,” and that’s how we met Chase. And the group did get going, and we had some amazing times together. So at least there’s a happy ending.
I’m not sure whatever happened to our Viola, but I can say that someone who reminded me a lot of her just got permanently banned from my own Facebook page.
Remember my post about confirmation bias where I talked about pronouns? Right after it went up, someone posted a comment in which they bragged about purposely misgendering a trans acquaintance, because they “weren’t in the mood to be understanding.” And I thought about Viola and the hag fags as I deleted the comment and blocked the poster, because the same attitude was in play:
“I’m an ally as long as I get something out of it, or until such time as it’s inconvenient.”
Devin is right. The casual homophobia in occultism needs to stop, as does the casual transphobia. And while we’re on the subject, it’s worth pointing out that if you’re contributing to the marginalization of a community to which you claim membership, you’re a whole lot more part of the problem than you’d like everyone to believe.