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 June, 2018

Who are the Radical Faeries?

The Radical Faeries (also known as the Rad Fae) is an LGBTQ Pagan movement that came out of the 1970s. In 1979, Harry Hay, his lover John Burnside, and a few others organized a spiritual conference that kicked off the Radical Faerie movement.  Harry Hay was also a co-founder of the 1950s Mattachine Society. This movement originally incorporated hippie, Neopagan, eco-friendly, and feminist ideals, but has since become so large and diverse as to be undefinable.

Modern Radical Faerie groups and sanctuaries may include elements of Native and New Age spirituality, the mythopoetic men’s movement, sustainable living, anarchism, Marxism, and other eclectic foundations, but the overall theme remains queer positive, countercultural, and community focused. Faeries tend to reject the artificial constructs of the heterosexual mainstream and assimilationist notions from within the LGBTQ community. The Radical Faeries celebrate the diversity within the LGBTQ community through Pagan concepts and ritual.  As with the assimilationist attitudes in the LGBTQ community, they have also challenged strict and formalized ritual structures promoted from within some segments of the Pagan community. Rad Fae events are both serious and playful, and often include a sense of gay campiness and sometimes they include drag.

Originally made up of gay men, the movement has grown to include men and women of all sexual orientations and identities. Rad Fae groups and sanctuaries can include anything from groups of only men who love men to those that include men, women, and all those in-between.

The term “faerie” is a reclaiming of the derogatory term “fairy” that was often used as a term of derision for gay men. The re-appropriated term “Faerie” celebrates gay men’s roles as magical and mystical healers, and religious and moral leaders.

Many Rad Fae groups and sanctuaries exist worldwide in both cities and rural areas.

Rainbow Pride Flag Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Photo from the Wikimedia Commons.

The Rainbow Flag, also known as the Pride Flag and Gay Pride Flag, is a symbol of LGBTQ pride. The colors reflect the diversity within the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer community, and the flag is often used as a symbol of pride in LGBTQ rights marches and parades. The Rainbow Flag was originally designed and hand dyed by San Francisco artist and drag queen Gilbert Baker in 1978. It first flew in the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade on June 25, 1978.

The original flag consisted of eight stripes; Baker assigned specific meaning to each of the colors as follows:

Hot Pink: Sexuality
Red: Life
Orange: Healing
Yellow: Sunlight
Green: Nature
Turquoise: Magic and Art
Indigo: Serenity and Harmony
Violet: Spirit

Since then, the design has undergone several revisions. As of 2018, the most common variant consists of six stripes, with the colors red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. The hot pink and turquoise have been totally removed, and indigo has been replaced with blue. Personally, I find it ironic that the two colors that were removed represent sexuality, art, and magic, since I find those areas to be symbolically important and defining characteristics for many LGBT people.

The flag is commonly flown horizontally, with the red stripe on top, as the colors would appear in a natural rainbow.

Many variations of the rainbow flag have been used. Some of the more common ones include the Greek letter ‘lambda’ (lower case) in white in the middle of the flag and a pink triangle or black triangle in the upper left corner. Other colors have been added, such as a black stripe symbolizing those community members lost to AIDS. Other flags have been created to celebrate other types of Pride in the LGBT community such as Trans pride, Leather pride, and Bear pride.

Philly “More Color More Pride” Flag

Last year there was controversy in Philadelphia because black and brown stripes were added to their rainbow flag as part of the city’s “More Color More Pride” campaign to increase the visibility of LGBT People of Color. The campaign was started in response to racial discrimination in Philadelphia gay bars. This created a great deal of controversy and even some backlash.

This year another rebooted Pride flag (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/danielquasar/progress-a-pride-flag-reboot) has been introduced. The new design features the traditional six stripes, but has an added triangle or arrow on the left side featuring more colors. The added black and brown stripes represent both people of color and those who are living with or have died from AIDS. Light blue, light pink, and white stripes were added to represent trans individuals.

The rainbow flag celebrates its 40th anniversary this year in 2018. During the Pride celebrations in June of 2003 during its 25th anniversary, Gilbert Baker restored the rainbow flag back to its original eight-striped version and has since advocated that others do the same. However, the eight-striped version has seen little adoption by the wider gay community, which has mostly stuck with the better known six-striped version. Baker passed away in 2017.

The Progress Pride Flag

Today many LGBT individuals and straight allies put rainbow flags in the front of their yards and/or front doors, or use rainbow bumper stickers on their vehicles to use as an outward symbol of their identity or support. The rainbow flag, in an LGBTQ context, has also found wide application on all manner of products including jewelry, clothing and other personal items and the rainbow flag colors are routinely used as a show of LGBT identity and solidarity.

As for the controversy over other flags, I advocate using whichever flag you like best or that best represents you and that you respect the right of others to do the same. I personally like the original eight stripe version, but I also see the merits of the newer flags aiming to be more inclusive.

What is Wicca?

Wicca is the most commonly known Pagan religion. Usually the religion is called “Wicca” and most Wiccans practice spells and that practice is called “witchcraft.”  It’s basically good witchcraft.  Wiccans have a law called the “Wiccan Rede.”  The short version pretty much says “Do as you will, but harm none.”  They also believe that anything bad you do to anyone else will come back to you three times. They call this the “Law of Three.”  Wiccans worship a Goddess and a God.  They generally believe that all gods and goddesses from various cultures and mythologies are just different aspects of one ultimate Goddess and one ultimate God.  Wicca is generally considered a feminine religion. Modern Wiccans are more likely to focus on the Goddess than the God.  Some paths focus on the belief in male-female polarity, especially related to something called “the Great Rite.”  This Rite is basically the sexual union of male and female – whether practiced as a genuine sex act or symbolically.  In some circles there’s debate about how LGBT people fit into the whole polarity thing. LGBT folks tend to have both masculine and feminine polarities within, rather than being exclusively one or the other.

There are many paths within Wicca including Dianic Wicca, Gardnerian Wicca, and the Feri Tradition.

Dianic Wicca tends to be almost exclusively female and Goddess oriented and is a favorite of Lesbians and Feminists. Dianic Wicca was founded in the 1970s by Zsuzsanna Budapest. Its focus is on the worship of the Roman goddess Diana (Artemis in Greek mythology) and feminism.  Unlike traditional Wicca that honors a god and a goddess, Dianic Wiccans view the Goddess as complete unto herself.  She is the source of all life.  Originally most Dianic covens consisted of Lesbian women, but modern Dianic groups may be heterosexual or mixed, but they remain a female-only tradition. Dianic covens often exclude Transgender people who were not born biological females.

Gardnerian Wicca was founded by was founded by Gerald Gardner in the 1950s. Gardner, was extremely homophobic and believed that covens and rituals should be performed exclusively through heterosexual male-female pairs.

The Feri Tradition emphasizes the “fey” (elves, fairies, etc.) and is open to all sexual orientations. They often encourage bisexuality during rituals. Faery Witch covens made up of Gay men have also been formed and are accepted in the Faery Witch tradition.  Feri and Faery Witches should not be confused with the Radical Faeries which will be discussed in a later article.

Other Wiccan paths include Alexandrian, Celtic, Georgian, and Discordian Wicca. There are also Kitchen Witches and Hedge Witches.

Two must read texts on LGBT Wicca and Witchcraft are “Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture” by Arthur Evans and “Gay Witchcraft” by Christpher Penczak.

How Gentrification and Mainstreaming Hurt the LGBTQ Community, Part 2

Mainstreaming is the act of incorporating a social or cultural group into the mainstream society, but it is also the adopting of mainstream values and sensibilities by that same social or cultural group.

The modern LGBTQ movement is said to have begun with the Stonewall Riot that started on June 27, 1969. At the time, it was common for gay bars to be raided by police and it was also common for those who frequented those bars to have their lives destroyed when their names were printed in the newspapers the following day.  On that particular night at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York, a handful of Drag Queens, Transgender people, sex workers, and other folks resisted the police and a movement was born.

While they may have been overly idealistic and utopian in their ideas, the early LGBTQ movement was not just about freeing the world from homophobia, it was also about making the world a better place for everyone. They challenged sexual puritanism and sex-shaming; the concepts of marriage and enforced monogamy; patriarchal institutions that held back women; classism and racism; and a host of other concerns.   Their aim was never to be “normal” or status quo, but to remake society in such a way as to end the oppression of all communities and so that people could be who or what they were without shame or censure.

Over the decades these ideals were sidelined by folks in the movement who just wanted to be seen as normal and who wanted to be accepted in polite society. Additional factors, too, have had an impact on the mainstreaming of the LGBTQ movement and culture. These include more positive portrayals of LGBTQ folks on television and in the movies and the embrace of LGBTQ employees and customers by large corporations.  While this mainstreaming has helped us make gains in such things as the right to serve in the military, same-sex marriage, and a growing acceptance of LGBTQ folks by society at large, these gains have only really been extended to the “right” type of people – those who can pass in polite mainstream,  heterosexual, white, cisgender, monogamous society.  The mainstreaming of LGBTQ culture helps those who are white, cisgender, male, affluent, and vanilla, but it does little to address rights and privileges denied to the more marginalized parts of our community – LGBTQ People of Color, Lesbians and Bisexual Women, Transgender folks, Drag Queens and Kings, the LGBTQ working class, folks in open and polyamorous relationships, fetish communities, and sex workers. The mainstreaming of LGBTQ people only perpetuates the inequalities, assumptions, and sexual prudery of the larger society and incorporates these into our own.

Another downside to this mainstreaming is the diluting and “de-gaying” of LGBTQ identity and culture. Our community used to have a fire in its belly and a strong idealism.  We had many things that held us together as a community – shared experiences (like coming out), a need for safe and secure alternative spaces (like LGBTQ bars, bookstores, and community centers), common causes (fighting homophobia, discrimination, and harassment), empathy and solidarity with other marginalized communities, and even an appreciation of divas and campiness.  As LGBTQ people and institutions are becoming more mainstream, we are losing those institutions that have helped us and defined us.  LGBTQ folks are getting more of their LGBTQ news from mainstream media, so we are losing LGBTQ papers and publications.  Along with those, we also lose an LGBTQ-centered perspective.  LGBTQ folks are meeting people and finding dates and hookups online and through apps like Grinder.  As we do so, LGBTQ bars, community centers, and social organizations are getting less patronage.  The combined effects of mainstreaming and gentrification are pushing many LGBTQ institutions out of business.   Many of these LGBTQ institutions were once strong and thriving in our community.  They provided safe secure places for us to be ourselves.  They especially provided shelter and safety to those of us who are less likely to pass in mainstream society. Institutions such as LGBTQ Bars, community centers, and papers also provided us places to share our unique history, culture, sensibilities, and values and norms that sometimes diverge from those of mainstream heterosexual society.

Gentrification and mainstreaming are complex issues. They have both their positives and their negatives.  Ultimately, they end up benefiting only certain privileged demographics within the LGBTQ community at the expense of the poor and the marginalized.  For better or for worse, gentrification and mainstreaming are also decimating longstanding LGBTQ community institutions and sensibilities.

Newest podcast is now online — Episode 16: The Superhero Show

This episode includes segments on Pagan and magickal superhero archetypes, LGBT superheroes including characters and actors, “research” into naughty superhero sites, and why do villains so often have gay voices and mannerisms.

Songs and sound clips include: Holding Out for a Hero, the Smallville theme, and clips from Spiderman, Batman, and others.

To listen you can visit my website (www.melmystery.com) or look for the episode on iTunes.

How Gentrification and Mainstreaming Hurt the LGBTQ Community, Part 1

Gentrification is the process where upper and upper-middle income individuals, organizations, and businesses assert upper and upper-middle class values, standards, and expenses on a neighborhood or community, often displacing low income and marginalized individuals, organizations, and businesses.

LGBTQ gentrification benefits from and perpetuates the myth that all LGBTQ people are affluent, cultured in the arts, and unhampered by the costs and responsibilities of raising children. This myth worked well to garner support from corporate America looking for untapped markets of potential customers. While this myth may be true for some, the privilege doesn’t extend to a large number in our community.

This myth mostly focuses on gay, white, cisgender men, often in monogamous dual income relationships. The myth discounts the experiences of Lesbians, People of Color, Transgender folks, and other marginalized people in the LGBTQ community.  While there are a disproportionate number of gay men working in higher income arts and culture careers, gay men are also more likely than straight men to work in traditionally female dominated jobs such as teacher, nurse, secretary, administrative assistant, and so on.  Female dominated jobs typically pay lower wages than jobs in male dominated fields.  Lesbians and other women already know this.  Some Lesbians are also single mothers or raise their children with the help and support of another female significant other.  LGBTQ people are more likely to experience discrimination in jobs and housing than straight people. Even now, after the legalization of same-sex marriage, discriminating against LGBTQ people isn’t necessarily illegal – depending on where you live and where you work.  This discrimination can impact one’s job opportunities and earning potential. LGBTQ People of Color, Transgender people, and others in our community face double and even triple forms of discrimination and inequality.  We also have a disproportionate number of homeless in our community including LGBTQ youth who ran away or who were kicked out by their parents, and transgender individuals who are more likely to experience discrimination in jobs, housing, and from mainstream social services and homeless programs.

Despite these realities, LGBTQ folks, businesses, and organizations are often on the leading edge of gentrification. We are often the initial perpetrators of gentrification, but we can also become later victims of this process. LGBTQ folks move to cities because we can find better opportunities including jobs, community, and a concentrated dating pool.  There’s also safety and security in numbers. In the city, one is more likely to find LGBTQ bars, community centers, businesses, and organizations.  Initially, many LGBTQ neighborhoods started in marginalized and neglected urban areas where LGBTQ folks could find homes and start businesses with little money or opposition to being there.   These communities improved and grew.  Often the non-LGBTQ and non-white lower income and marginalized communities who were there before us are pushed out.  Affluent LGBTQ folks often bring new stores, bars, businesses, coffee shops, and cultural institutions into areas that were previously cheap and run down.  They make improvements to their neighborhoods and make them more appealing for real estate developers, larger businesses, and corporate franchises to move in.

In some places, LGBTQ folks are gentrifying themselves out of their own gayborhoods. While many initially moved into a neighborhood because of lower costs, gentrification raises rents and other prices.  LGBTQ people, bars, organizations, and businesses can’t always keep up with the rising prices and are eventually pushed out by even more affluent or influential individuals, businesses, and developers.  Additionally, less affluent LGBTQ people may never have been able to keep up with rent and other costs in the first place.

The positive side of gentrification is that it beautifies neighborhoods, brings in business, and makes these neighborhoods safer (at least for white, cisgender people).

On the negative side, low income and marginalized straight and LGBTQ people, organizations, and businesses are forced out because of rising prices and the stigma of being other. For example, in one community expensive condos built up around the site of a longstanding LGBTQ bar. The condo community had issues with having an LGBTQ bar in their neighborhood so they eventually closed it down in the name of progress. Gentrified prices also limit the opportunities of individuals, groups, and businesses that have less money or resources to work with.  This especially affects the working class and lower middle-class.  It prices people, businesses, and organizations out of the market.

While gentrification is often used to talk about physical neighborhoods, its effect can also be experienced in other ways that put profits and an affluent lifestyle over the common community. LGBTQ gentrification can include excessively high ad prices in LGBTQ papers and publications.  It also can also include the content some of these publications focus on – such as articles that pertain to the affluent and trendy while excluding topics and issues of interest to the average LGBTQ person or those within our marginalized sub-communities.   Gentrification can be seen in high prices for spaces and other representation at Pride events.  While it might be fair to charge corporations and businesses higher prices since they would presumably be making money and gaining customers, the same can’t be said of charging high prices to community groups who are only trying to gain new members.   Small mom and pop businesses may also have difficulty paying the price for inclusion. Gentrified prices limit the options for these small community groups, small organizations, and small businesses to be represented, to be visible, and to build grassroots community.  Gentrification can also be expressed in the types of events that are held and the admission costs involved.  Events focusing on affluent sensibilities may appeal to certain segments of the LGBTQ population, but not all.  High priced events marginalize those of lower incomes.

To be continued…