Gender: A Graphic Guide — written by Barker, illustrated by Jules Scheele, and published this past January — is essentially a hyper-condensed Gender Studies course written in plain language, heavily illustrated, and aimed at a general audience. Barker and Scheele weave a cogent, enjoyable narrative of “how humanity understands gender and what makes it so complicated” while acknowledging complexities, disagreements, and problematic elements within the evolution of our understanding of gender over time.
There were several points in this book when I yelled “YESSS!” out loud, alone in my apartment.
Most Americans lack a defined relationship with our ancestors, particularly those who died before we were born. We certainly don’t have a mainstream cultural equivalent of the ancestor-veneration practices in Shinto and many American Indian traditions. To address this gap of connection, many pagans and pagan groups, particularly those working in Shamanic contexts, are working to create better ancestor connection practices for us to use in our modern, magickal lives.
For some queer people, coming into a pagan tradition where suddenly ancestor work is A Thing can be…unsettling and confusing. Some of us cut ties with our families after being rejected for our queer identities. Some of us keep family at arm’s length because, while they aren’t outright hostile, they just don’t “get” our queerness and don’t make attempts to understand, much less affirm, us. Complicating this further, some of our deceased relatives were slave owners, bigots, or worse. Many of our families seem to actively work to disempower, rather than empower, us. So why on earth should we incorporate our ancestors into any of our magick?
What I expected was for a little intro on the concept of gender and then, I don’t know, a bunch of quizzes to try and figure out a gender label for myself. Instead, the authors slowly, carefully, delicately unpack the concept of gender and its implications on our lives, acknowledging that it’s a charged and emotional subject and sprinkling mindfulness breaks throughout the book. They include several exercises to help define the impact your gender identity has on your life, and how to explore your relationship to gender. There are plenty of quotes from people of diverse gender identities, showing a wide range of experiences. And the authors are careful to note the ways in which sexuality, culture, race and class intersect with and influence people’s expectations around gender.
The following is a post by Sibling AYIN, reposted by permission of the author.It originated on the author’s Facebook page and was reposted on Thelemic Union.
For background: In October of 2019, the O.T.O. revised their manual to enforce gender binary on their clergy – non-binary people are now excluded from serving as a Priest or Priestess if the role doesn’t match their sex/gender assigned at birth.
Head of OTO: Gnostic Mass is from a Male Perspective
At the 1996 O.T.O. Women’s Conference, the Sovereign Patriarch/O.H.O. (Outer Head of the Order of Ordo Templi Orientis), Hymenaeus Beta XII°, decided to give his remarks on the topic of the Gnostic Mass. Of all the things in Thelema about empowering women in the New Æon, I wonder why he chose that topic?
My guess is he may have wanted to explain things to the ladies before they started questioning things like why there are no female Saints in the Gnostic Mass, and other androcentric aspects of it under the E.G.C. policies that govern it. (Why a “Patriarch” would be the keynote speaker at a Women’s Conference is beyond me, but OK…)
Before they spent the conference discussing things on their own, the O.H.O. explained to the women that the intentional reason there were no women listed in The Saints Collect was because the Gnostic Mass should be understood as being “from a male perspective, having been written by a man.”
Was it though? I’ve heard this explanation used 1,000,000 times by men in the O.T.O./E.G.C., assuming that since the Patriarch said it, it must be the gospel truth. Let’s dissect that a bit.
Did Aleister Crowley exclusively identify as male and understand himself to be a man “in his daily life as well as in his spiritual practice”?
You’re planning a ritual or event and want to ensure people of all genders feel welcome. But our understanding of gender is ever-evolving, as is the language surrounding it. How do write your invitation language to be inclusive of nonbinary people, agender people, and people of other gender identities?
Liminal gender as a concept
As pagans and magickal folk, we should be at least somewhat comfortable with liminal concepts, and yet many of us still lean heavily on binaries. This is not a problem unique to magickal communities, however. Language throughout our society tends to be written as “this or that” much more than “this, that, both, neither, or something else entirely.” So before we get into the actual language to use for outreach, I think we need to spend a little time on nonbinary/agender/xenogender identities and what they mean.
Not everybody is interested in becoming a queer studies scholar. But everyone can benefit from having a better understanding of queerness and queer theory.
Queer: A Graphic History was written by Meg-John Barker, illustrated by Jules Scheele, and published in 2016. It is a friendly, heavily-illustrated introduction to queer theory, a branch of study formed in the early 1990s. But even more than that, it’s a handy, easy-to-understand introduction to the complexities of the concept of queerness. I recommend this book for people who are trying to get their heads around queer identities, the word “queer,” and queer vocabulary, and want to dive a bit deeper than an online article.
My therapist once told me, “Anxiety is the flip side of creativity.”
I think about that statement a lot, because it really hit home. My brain is a pinball machine, constantly zooming from one thought to the next, free-associating like wild. It makes me great at brainstorming and planning for worst-case scenarios, but unfortunately it also makes my capacity to worry nigh-incalculable. If there were an Anxiety Olympics, I’d be a gold-medal champion, several times over.
So believe me when I say that distracting my brain from its endless worry cycle, especially in These Times, is extremely difficult.
I’ve gotten pretty good at meditation. I count my breaths. I listen to familiar podcasts and audiobooks. But sometimes, none of that is enough, particularly when I wake up in the middle of the night.
I have recently stumbled upon a technique that has helped, though. (The usual disclaimers apply here, of course: I am not a doctor or a psychologist. The following does not constitute medical advice. Please consult a doctor if you suffer from chronic insomnia.)
Recently, I was honored to assist the Wiccan tradition of which I’m a member, the Assembly of the Sacred Wheel (ASW), in updating its policies to be more gender-inclusive in coven leadership structures.
Historically, Assembly covens were to have two leaders each: one High Priest and one High Priestess. When I, a feminine-presenting nonbinary person, was called to leadership, to serve in the place of the departing High Priest of my coven, that policy came under scrutiny.
Fair warning: Links and embedded images/videos on this post have a fair bit of swearing. If that’s not your jam, skip on past ’em.
Last week on Zoom, my coven celebrated Lughnasadh (AKA Lammas), a harvest/Thanksgiving ritual. My role for the ritual was to bless the cakes and ale.
I’m pretty good at extemporaneous ritual work, so I didn’t prepare anything specific to say for the blessing. I was ready to do the usual: offer gratitude to the deities, ask for their blessing, ask for the food to nourish us, yada yada.
But when we got to the cakes and ale blessing, I found I suddenly had a LOT to say about the concept of harvest during These Times.