Welcome to Discovering the Male Mysteries with Mel Mystery. This blog is a supplement to my podcast is for and about gay and bi pagan men. My podcasts are about what it is to be gay, what it is to be pagan, what it is to be men — sometimes as separate topics and sometimes all meshed together as one. I started this endeavor after seeing that there were few, if any, podcasts out there on this topic. The podcasts are informative, and present topics that challenge conventional thinking.

Archive for November, 2016

We must be Vigilant

I woke up to the news of the 2016 Presidential Election results this morning with horror.  I was not the only one.  Many other LGBT folks, women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and other minorities have reacted with the same horror and a very real fear of what a Trump presidency might bring about.  Already bastions of hate and intolerance, including the KKK, the Alt Right movement, and other groups, have come out of the woodwork feeling validated by Trump’s rhetoric during his campaign and his unexpected election to President.

I rewind the clock to just under a year and a half ago when same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S. by the Supreme Court decision on June 26, 2015.  As LGBTQ people we felt we had finally arrived.  Many LGBTQ advocacy organizations shut down claiming their work was done.  The average, mainstream gay or lesbian person became more interested in wedding planning than in activism.  Those already privileged in other areas of their life, ghosted themselves from coalitions and organizations of people fighting for other causes – women’s rights, the rights of people of color, trans rights, sex worker rights, religious tolerance, helping the poor, LGBTQ youth, homelessness, and many others. Once we received some semblance of rights, many of us didn’t care to continue fighting for the rights of others. Those issues were someone else’s problem not ours.

Up until a today, the biggest LGBTQ concern on most LGBTQ people’s minds was the Trans bathroom issue.  Little did we concern ourselves that the achievements we’ve made in the past decade could possibly come tumbling down. Progress only moves forward, right?  We have marriage equality, gays in the military, record numbers of LGBTQ characters on television, and droves of LGBTQ celebrities and even sports figures coming out of the closet or in support of LGBTQ folks.

The mass shooting at the Pulse Orlando nightclub last June was a shock and a wakeup call suggesting that prejudice still exists against LGBTQ folks, against people of color, and against Muslims, but did we really heed the call? Sure there were vigils and speeches and the forming of LGBTQ gun control groups, but a month or two later after the hubbub and after all the summer Pride festivals died down, how much have we really done to address the underlying issues that caused such a tragedy to happen in our country in the first place? How many of us have gotten involved in any kind of actual cause as a result of the tragedy?

LGBTQ folks are not the only ones who became complacent under the eight years of Obama’s presidency.  Many believed with an African-American serving as President, that racism was a thing of the past.  While we’ve never adopted the Equal Rights Amendment for women, many folks believed women’s rights were also secure.

With Trump’s election and his pending presidency, we live in fear.  Will he reverse same-sex marriage? Will he close down Planned Parenthood?  Will he deport immigrants and Muslims, and close the borders? Will he give huge tax breaks to the rich, while the poor get poorer? Do we really want someone that unstable to have control of military forces and of nuclear weapons?  Will he continue to incite the anger, hate, and divisiveness we saw in his campaign?

What about all the people who voted for him?  Does approximately half of the country really hate and look down on LGBT folks, people of color, women, immigrants, Muslims, and anyone else defined as other? Were they just reacting to calls for sensible gun control and political correctness?  Were they feeling frustrated and left out in a time when a number of minority groups celebrated increased visibility and increased rights? Could we really miss the subtle racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia brewing just below the surface of American society?

While I’m not looking forward to a Trump presidency, I hope we as a people can learn from the circumstances we’re faced with.  Perhaps we will feel compelled to get involved, not just to secure our own rights, but to look out for others.  Maybe we will learn to work together among our different disenfranchised or potentially disenfranchised demographic groups.  Perhaps we’ll learn that an injustice to one group is an injustice for all. Perhaps the younger generations who grew up feeling they were totally accepted by society, will learn what the older generations already knew about prejudice and intolerance. Perhaps somehow they will become better people for it.  Perhaps all those who voted for Trump will realize their mistake, when the people they love – their friends, their neighbors, their co-workers, and their family members, start being affected by his policies.

It is a dark day, and we do not entirely know what a Trump presidency will bring us.  Until then, we must be vigilant. We must stand together and we must not go quietly into the night!

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Trick or Treat as a Rite of Passage

wolfmanOne of my favorite adult memories of Halloween was from a time I was living in Colonial Place in Norfolk.  The whole neighborhood got into the spirit of the holiday with decorations, haunted yards, adults dressed up in costumes ready to give candy to the trick or treaters. On Halloween, the whole neighborhood looked like a place out of a spooky movie.  I lived in a house with some artistic folks.  The landlady even made an authentic looking werewolf costume out of paper mache and fur.  She was already a tall, lanky woman, but she made herself even taller with wooden blocks on her shoes.  On Halloween night, unsuspecting tweens and young teens would round the corner onto our porch only to be confronted with a realistic looking seven foot tall werewolf standing over the bowl of candy.  Many would run away screaming and then their parents would reassure them, come up onto the porch, spy the werewolf, and run away screaming themselves.  My landlady believed that the children should “earn” their treat. She also didn’t give candy to those children who didn’t wear an actual costume.

I’ve told this story time and time again over the years, most folks sharing in the fun that the parents were scared too.  Last week I told the story to a co-worker and she suggested that this was terrible.  The children were probably traumatized.

As I handed out candy to trick or treaters last night, I reflected on this.  I’m no longer in a neighborhood that gets so much into Halloween, but my next door neighbors did and I watched as they handed out candy while in costume in their front yard. I watched as the reluctant kids backed away in droves from the woman in the pumpkin mask handing out candy.  I watched as some “earned” their candy by confronting their fears, while others avoided the house and their promised treats because their fear got the better of them. I watched as parents encouraged their children to face their fears, and then I realized… this has all the hallmarks of a rite of passage.

The whole scene reminded me of historical rites of passage and coming of age rites where the adults in a community or village conspire to help the youth gain confidence and independence by confronting their fears and proving they are ready to ascend to the next age grouping.  This can be done by sending the youth out into the woods to survive and to hunt on their own, by sending them out for a vision quest, through enacting a mythic ritual, or even by forcing them to face a monster or a wild beast (usually an adult in a mask).

Trick or treat has a number of elements associated with rites of passage and the hero’s journey.  There’s a call to adventure – the chance to dress up, roam the streets, and get candy.  There are gifts given to the child to help them on their quest – a costume so they can blend in, a bag to hold their bounty, maybe a flashlight or glow stick to light their way.  The child meets the guardian at the threshold – the mundane or masked adult handing out candy at the door, porch, or property boundary. If the adult is masked, the children have to face their fear if they want receive their boon. The adventure takes place at a liminal time – dusk on All Hallow’s Eve. The children’s parents act as guides encouraging them that there’s nothing to be afraid of – only a person in a mask.  Sometimes the person will take off the mask to show them there’s really nothing to fear. After trick or treat is over, the children bring their bounty back to their homes.  Their parents and siblings often share in their prize.

The next year the ritual begins anew.  The child is a little older and has more experience than they did the year before.  As they grow older, they may start to taunt the masked guardians.  “You’re just wearing a mask.”  They still may be reluctant to get too close.  The years go by and they master their fears (or they become dominated by them).  At some point they’re too old for trick or treat, so they start going to Halloween parties at school or hosted by friends.  This is another chance to prove their independence, though someone’s parents are probably close by.  For good or ill, some start using Halloween as an opportunity to pull pranks, while others go to haunted houses, watch scary movies, and so on.  These are yet more opportunities to assert their independence and to face their fears.

Eventually the children, tweens, and teens grow up.  They may enact this ritual yet again with their own kids.  They may act as parental guides or threshold guardians bearing candy. Or they might fall into the category of those who have become cynical and chose not to celebrate Halloween.  Even adults have to face their fears on this day — their fear of the worst in humanity.  They know that it’s only other humans under the masks, but that’s not necessarily reassuring.  What else might the mask hide – serial killers, rapists, sex offenders, folks who might poison or put razor blades in the candy, human traffickers, body part snatchers, and all our other unconscious fears brought to life?  Most folks are normal, everyday people under the masks, but it only takes one or a few bad apples to spoil the celebration.  Adults too have to decide whether to face their fears or to be owned and dominated by their worst nightmares.

With all rites of passage there’s always the opportunity to grow by facing fear and asserting confidence and independence, but there’s also always the risk of trauma.  Not everyone can face their fears, and those who don’t pass their test often become traumatized by the test and owned by their fears. Trick or treat can be an adventure or a trauma.  It all depends on how you approach it and whether or not you let your fears haunt you.