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.

Events and Gatherings

Can’t We All Just Get Along? Part 2

In my last post, I talked about various examples of division. While I think differences across the political spectrum (such as Democrats vs. Republicans) are harder to remedy, we also seem to have major differences among those mostly on the same side (left-leaning Democrats vs. centrist Democrats, or the various “factions” within the LGBTQ community). We are so polarized right now that even subtle differences elicit strong reaction, division, and even hate.

In the examples given in the last post, I really don’t see much reconciliation with the Transphobic high school friend or the Trump supporting receptionist at the dentist office. I think our world views and life experiences are too different. Nothing I say is likely to change their minds. It’s not really worth adding the stress of argument to my already super stressed life. Sure, I could unfriend the high school friend. I grew up in a rural backwoods area of Virginia, so his comments are likely shared by a host of other high school friends. If push comes to shove, I could always delete them all too. I could change dentist offices or make a complaint. Maybe I will do these things. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I can hope that these people will glean some bit of enlightenment by seeing me and the things I say and post to my own page. Direct confrontation only leads to direct confrontation back and folks become entrenched even more in their own beliefs.

What I want to talk about and explore today is not the division across party lines, but all the divisions among folks who are mostly on the same side. Maybe we don’t agree on everything. Just because we are in different lanes doesn’t mean we have to be enemies. We can actually be allies and support each other, but still go off and do our own things. It’s an extremist and inflexible view to say that we can’t.

“Maybe we don’t agree on everything. Just because we are in different lanes doesn’t mean we have to be enemies.”

Since my college activist days, I have never considered myself an assimilationist. I believe we live in a pluralistic society. I think it is okay for us to have differing interests, cultures, ideologies, groups and so on. We can do this and still come together as allies on things that matter to us all. I don’t think everyone has to be exactly the same or to have exactly the same ideals and goals. I remember the days when the LGBTQ community (usually led by white middle-class gay men) put forth calls for diversity back in the 1990s. Back then “diversity” really meant including women and people of color who held white middle-class male values. These groups were often gentrified and didn’t really address the issues of women, people of color, or other groups of people. It’s a nice ideal for a utopia, but it really wasn’t a diversity of ideas or backgrounds. I supported the rights of Lesbians and women to form groups and events of their own. I also supported the rights of gay men to form men’s groups and events. I supported the sovereignty of African American LGBTQ groups. I supported the rights of LGBTQ folks not to follow the dictates of heterosexual society, as well as the rights of those who wanted to get married and live in the idealized house with white picket fences. I still support the notion of a pluralistic world rather than a monolith where everyone looks and thinks the same. Such monoliths breed dogma, as well as stigma to those who dare to be different. Isn’t that what we’re trying to avoid? I support a world where differences are celebrated, not denigrated. In a pluralistic society, there are niche groups, ideologies, and events; but there are also times when we form alliances and come together toward a common goal.

“Such monoliths breed dogma, as well as stigma to those who dare to be different. Isn’t that what we’re trying to avoid?”

I think our world is moving even more in the direction of pluralism and niches. Population increases and the capacity for very specific niche groups on the internet is helping to facilitate this. The weird thing is that the more niche and pluralistic we become, the more we seem to want the rest of the world to reflect our world view. We all live in our bubble and expect the real world to conform to our idea of an ideal world. We want every group, every event, and every television character to reflect who we are and what we believe. We have no patience that our goals take time, or that sometimes we have to make compromises.

What most folks don’t realize is that not everything is about “you”, nor does it have to be. My experience doesn’t invalidate yours. You’ve dealt with your unique challenges and I’ve dealt with mine. We’ve all come into this world with our own unique struggles and unique life paths.

“What most folks don’t realize is that not everything is about “you”, nor does it have to be. My experience doesn’t invalidate yours.”

The next section is dedicated to the women and the Trans folks who feel that men’s groups and identities somehow threaten them. This is a snippet of my own unique life path.

As a gay man growing up in the 1980s in a Christian household and Christianized society, I struggled to come out both to myself and to others. While I realized I was gay in high school, I really didn’t come out until college. I’ve had friendships end for coming out as gay. I’ve experienced harassment for being out and gay. I once even had my life threatened by a group of men holding tire irons in a parking lot (http://www.melmystery.com/index.php/about-mel/past-projects-involvements ) . In college, my car was vandalized because I had a pink triangle bumper sticker. I feel like subtle job discrimination in my early career probably kept me from having a better job and finances than I do now. I feel like as a gay man that I’ve had to work harder and do more to prove my worth at both work and in the world.

As a gay man, I also actually like masculinity (contrary to popular belief not all masculinity is toxic) and I like the company of other men. Throughout my life I have had to make a concentrated effort to be among other men. In childhood I lived out in a rural area without many other children around and I always yearned for a male best friend. Things got a little better from middle school onward, but the few close male friendships I formed were tenuous at best. Before I came out (and when I thought I had to like girls), I was always drawn to the masculinity of tomboy types. In my early teens, I thought I had a crush on Jo from Facts of Life (you know the one who wore the leather jacket and drove a motorcycle); and my favorite Doctor Who companion was the tough and tomboyish Ace. My point is that I’m naturally drawn to masculinity for whatever reason. In college, I got along better with the Lesbians than I did with other gay men. I’ve wondered if this were possibly because they were more masculine than my gay male peers. I know it’s a stereotype, but it was also true to some extent. There’s also this idea that gay men distrust other men, so maybe that was at play too. (I touched on this topic of gay men distrusting other men in one of my earlier podcasts, I believe it was in my review of the book “Gay Warrior” in Episode 5 — http://melmystery.podbean.com/ )

As a gay man, I also actually like masculinity (contrary to popular belief not all masculinity is toxic) and I like the company of other men.

As I got past college, my career has been in largely female dominated fields (education and libraries). When I first became involved in Pagan men’s groups in the early 2000s, it was very liberating for me to befriend and hang out with other men of all sexual orientations. Experiences and feelings of brotherhood with other men was something largely lacking in my life. Most were straight, but they were still very accepting. When I attended Coph Nia (a now defunct Pagan men’s spiritual gathering) in 2014 and 2015, I felt like I’d finally found my people. These people were gay men who are Pagan, countercultural and activist inclined, and welcoming rather than judgmental of other gay men. Shortly after I found them, the event ended.

That is my truth and my reality. As I said, it doesn’t invalidate your experiences or make us enemies. I support equality and justice and fairness for all, not just for gay men. I’ve done much over the years to advocate for all sorts of disenfranchised groups, not just my own.

Relatively recently, I ran an online “alternative” paper for a while. I tried opening it to LGBTQ folks across the spectrum as well as to Pagans, Polyamorists, and all sorts of folks living other “alternative” lifestyles. I tried to make it everything for everybody. I spread myself thin trying to make sure everyone was represented and happy, and very few people across any of that spectrum stepped up to write articles or to help even the load. I do appreciate the Trans folks, women, and People of Color who did help (notice again the relative lack of men and gay men involved in this endeavor). Ultimately, I realized that my path is niche, and that niche is easier to manage. I’m still involved in orchestrating an annual “Alternative” Pride Picnic that came out of the alternative paper. That event does draw a heavy Trans and Lesbian presence. As already mentioned, and as with everything else I involve myself in, there are generally very few men involved — straight or gay. This perpetuates my need to make a concentrated effort to be among other men.

I do support women’s issues and events. I marched in our local women’s march in 2017. In 2018, I also sat through several city council meetings in support of our local Lesbian bar that was being closed due to gentrification of its neighborhood. I also periodically attend our local Transgender Days of Visibility and Transgender Days of Remembrance. Unlike many of the haters I find on the internet, I don’t make these events all about me or my demographic group. I don’t attend the women’s events trying to fight the matriarchy or shouting that men’s rights matter too. I don’t go to the Transgender Day of Remembrance asking why they aren’t honoring Matthew Shepard who was killed for being gay (not Trans). I don’t make an *ss of myself asking why they are being exclusionary for not including him or other gay and Lesbian folks who may have died to homophobia. These events aren’t about me or my specific demographic, but that doesn’t mean I can’t or don’t show my support. I also know that sometimes I need to step back or out of the picture altogether. It’s not always about me. In a Pagan setting a few years ago, I was considering going to an OBOD Druid event. I consider myself a Druid, but I’m not an OBOD Druid. I ultimately decided not to go because it looked like they had all sorts of initiation rituals and other private OBOD events going on. Unlike many of the “woke” people on the internet calling for total inclusion at all events, I didn’t send them a nastygram asking them why other types of Druids weren’t represented (let alone Wiccans, Witches, or other Pagans). I realized this event, no matter how interesting, wasn’t about me and moved on.

In the last post, I mentioned the Female-to-Male Trans person who attended our men’s retreat last spring. He was the first Trans person to attend one of our events, and this was also his very first men’s event since his operation. He proudly went shirtless at our event and you could still see the fresh scars from his breast reduction surgery. He was welcomed with open arms and at our main ritual he broke down with emotion because it was such a powerful experience for him to be welcomed into a brotherhood of men. Our men’s events aren’t necessarily all-inclusive, but they are not meant to be exclusive either. A Male-to-Female Trans person probably wouldn’t enjoy our men’s retreats, though perhaps might gain something if welcomed into a sisterhood of women. To call our men’s event Trans-exclusionary might fit someone’s narrative or maybe their own hatred or distrust of men and masculinity, but that is a prejudicial judgement that doesn’t fit with actual reality.

I know some LGBTQ folks out there want to overthrow the idea of gender altogether. I don’t think that’s the answer. I think the answer is respecting our differences whether they be gender or other factors. That’s not something we’re particularly good at in this day and age. I think many Trans folks are just as attached to their inherent (not birth) gender as many cisgender folks are. As evidenced in the story above, I believe that gendered events can be very powerful and affirming to at least some Trans folks. The real problem is when we start suggesting that someone is something less because of their gender identity – whatever that may be.

Part 3 of this post will be coming out later this week.


Can’t We All Just Get Along? Part 1

It’s been a weirdly divisive week across the board. I first noticed it on Monday when a high school friend on Facebook posted a transphobic article on his page trying to link bathroom rapes to Trans folks. The article made me really angry. I started to write a response, but then stopped myself because these things never end well. Experience has shown me that nothing I say will change closed minds and that if I were to respond then all the other transphobic trolls on his page would come out and attack me in mass. I have friends who are Trans and I worried that by not responding I was letting them down, but I also felt like responding would be a metaphoric suicide mission. With everything else going on in my life this week, I really didn’t have the time for a Facebook showdown anyway.

Then I went in for a dentist appointment on Tuesday. Yes. It was Super Tuesday and that’s probably what got the receptionist there talking about politics. She’s a Trump supporter and has apparently drunk the Trump and Fox News Cool-Aid. Since my dentist was running behind with another patient, the receptionist felt the need to use the waiting time to talk about how senile Biden is — even though everything she said could just as easily applied to Trump. I’m honestly not sure Biden isn’t senile, so I just laughed nervously (my defense mechanism) trying to diffuse the situation rather than start an argument. She went on to insist that Michele Obama is actually a man. She showed me a Fox News clip on her phone as ‘proof.” I continued to laugh nervously while changing the subject to recent renovations I’ve had done to my house (all the while debating in my head the need to change dentist offices).

Wednesday, there was all the Democratic Primary fallout. The Bernie supporters were blaming the establishment Democrats for Sanders’ less than stellar wins. Primary participation was actually up this year showing fervor among the Democrats, but youth participation in the Primaries was down and the youth are Sanders’ biggest base. In an online spiritual forum that I frequent, one young Bernie supporter was lashing out at Biden supporters and Boomers. Bernie supporters elsewhere were blaming Black voters for not having enough information about Biden’s record because they overwhelmingly supported Biden over Bernie. And then, of course, there was the response article from Black Democratic voters calling out Bernie’s white liberal base for not voting “the way outraged, left-leaning white liberals wanted.” (https://www.theroot.com/an-open-letter-to-white-liberals-blaming-low-informatio-1842100419 )

As for my own Primary choices. I was all in for Mayor Pete before he dropped out of the race. Before he did, I saw posts on Facebook from gay men bashing him and saying he looked like a “rat” in the face. These were gay men who should have been excited about a gay presidential candidate even if he wasn’t their candidate of choice. I personally admired Pete’s moderate approach, his calmness in the debates, and how well-spoken he is. Yeah, the Christian thing bothered me a little bit, but I also saw someone who could take on evangelicals on their own turf and maybe change their minds about gay people with his seemingly squeaky-clean image. With Pete out of the race before Super Tuesday, I was sure going into the polls that I was going to vote for Biden since I believe we need a moderate in office to heal the divisions in our country. I’m proud to say that when I got to the polls I voted for Warren, even if she didn’t win and dropped out of the race on Thursday. She was my second choice. As a Virgo, I really liked that she had plans for everything and I also liked her spunk. She wasn’t as divisive a Bernie or as boring as Biden.

On Thursday, I decided take a break from politics to post an announcement across several (mostly gay Pagan men’s) Facebook groups about two upcoming Pagan men’s retreats I’m involved with – Brotherhood by the Bog Pagan Men’s Retreat and the Arcadia Gathering for Queer Pagan Men. (http://www.olympuscampgroundresort.com/ – both events are listed under the “Events” tab). In the past, the idea of men’s groups and retreats sometimes elicited backlash from women (who ironically totally supported women-only groups and Goddess retreats). In today’s woke world, such events are being lambasted as Trans-exclusionary. And in one group I posted in, a solitary member felt the need to label our events as such and to call all men’s events “rubbish” with the same disgust for men and men’s groups seen from Lesbian Feminist separatists in an earlier time. Never mind that it says all over the site that while the focus is on Pagan men, we welcome anyone who feels they would benefit from attending including folks of all sexual orientations, Trans folks, and even women. Never mind that last year, we welcomed our first female-to-male Trans man to one of our retreats. Having just had his surgery, attending a men’s event and being welcomed into a group of men was a profound and emotional experience for him (more on that in my next post or the one after that if this turns out to be a three part article). We also welcomed a masculine identified straight woman to the same event.

On Friday morning, I read an article about Elizabeth Warren’s interview on Rachel Maddow from Thursday night. (https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/03/06/warren-sanders-maddow-bullying/) In the article, Warren “calls out Sanders for ‘organized nastiness’ and ‘bullying’ by his supporters.” She claimed that some of Bernie’s followers sink to the same level as many of Trump’s supporters including questionable political tactics and online bullying. In the article, Warren advocates that “Democrats cannot ‘follow that same kind of politics of division that Donald Trump follows.” On Trump she claims, “He draws strength from tearing people apart, from demonizing people.”

That same demonization is going on not just across political divides (like the high school friend on Facebook or the receptionist at the dentist office), but within the Democratic Party itself (leftists vs. centrists, young vs. old, Black vs. white) and even within the LGBTQ community (Lesbian Feminist Separatists vs. men, Trans folks vs. cisgender gay men).

In my down time, I’ve been spending a lot of time on YouTube watching pick-a-card Tarot readings and listening to 80s music from my youth. This helps me cope with the stress in my personal life and the stress and division coming from the world at large. As I scroll through the videos, I see all the haters hating on the latest season of Doctor Who. They are usually complaining about the in-your-face “wokeness” of the latest series along with the diverse choice of cast members. Seeing that most of videos are from middle aged white men, I just roll my eyes. Sure I’m a middle aged white man myself, but I’m at least trying to give the series the benefit of the doubt. Since I cut the cable cord last spring, I can’t comment on the quality of the current season but from the spoilers I’ve read it does appear that the show is also riddled with bad writing and major changes to the show’s 50 year canon that could be disturbing to long-time fans.

I come to the end of today’s post but hope to pick up the threads with another post in a few days. The upcoming post will be a deeper exploration of these divisions and what it all might mean in a pluralistic society such as ours.

Part 2 coming soon…


Discovering Arcadia: A Gay Magickal Utopia, Part 2

Virgil’s Ecologue and Plato’s Symposium: A Greek View of Gender

In Plato’s Symposium Aristophanes talks about the origins of mankind.  There were originally three species – male, female, and androgynous.  Because of their pride, the gods punished them by dividing them in half so that they would always walk the earth looking for their other half in their quest to be whole.  Those who were of the divided male species were always looking for their other male half – thus male-male homosexual love; those of the divided female species were always looking for their other female half – thus female-female homosexual love; those of the divided androgynous species were always looking for the other sex – male for female and female for male, or heterosexual love.

“Those who dwell in Arcadia seek out that secret Eden because of its isolation from the troubled world and its safety from the arrogant demands of those who would deny freedom, curtail human action, and destroy innocence and love.” – Byrne R.S. Fone

Arcadia as a Uranian Ideal

During the European Renaissance, Arcadia emerged as an ideal of unspoiled, remote, wilderness. It was further idealized by Uranian (their contemporary term for homosexual) men as a homosexual Eden or a utopia of male-male love.   To these men, Arcadia was a metaphor for what homosexual life could be without the stigma and constraints of mainstream heterosexual society.  They pictured Arcadia as a hidden and isolated leafy grove, a remote pastoral land, or even as an island far from the hustle and bustle and every day cares of the mundane world.  For them, Arcadia feeds the homosexual spirit. The love of men for men is natural there.  It is even divinely sanctioned as a means to understand all that is good and beautiful. In Arcadia, homosexual love and sexuality is the ideal.   It is noble, inspired, virtuous, and spiritually uplifting.  Arcadia features untrodden paths, secluded spots, and hidden waters.  There are rivers flowing through the land and the element of water purifies and enhances the innocence of the place. Rites of the sea, purification, and transformation by water are central to the rituals of life in Arcadia.  Symbolic sexual consummation takes place in or near the water.  These rituals celebrate male friendship, our mythologies, the union and consummation of lovers, coming together in a loving and sexual fraternity of men, and washing away any sense of guilt brought on by society at large.  These rites often include offering gifts from nature and purification by water.  The men of Arcadia are naturally nude, or at least they wear skimpy clothing.  The climate is such that this is comfortable.

These Renaissance men idealized Arcadia as a place where homosexual sensibilities, love, and sexuality can be practiced without fear or punishment.  In Arcadia, it is safe to come out and to be gay.  In this Utopia of male love and sexuality, gay and bi men are free from the stigma and the “outlaw” status that society confers on us.

Look out for part 3 coming soon… To find out more about the Arcadia Gathering, please visit:
http://www.olympuscampgroundresort.com/index.php/events/arcadia


Latest Podcast Available — Episode 17B: The Conspiracy Show, Part 2

My latest podcast episode is now online.

This is a continuation of the “conspiracy” episode.  Part one came out in January.  In this episode, I’ll be talking more about the Web Bot and possible biases in the algorithm.  I’ll be exploring why conspiracy theorists are so obsessed with pedophilia.  And I’ll be explaining my own system for evaluating conspiracy theories.

You can listen to this episode directly from my website (below) or through iTunes or Podbean.

http://www.melmystery.com/


Discovering Arcadia: A Gay Magickal Utopia, Part 1

What is Arcadia? Arcadia was an ancient Greek city with its own mythology and patron deities, but it was also the ideal of a homosexual utopia in European Renaissance literature.  It is also the name adopted for an East Coast / Mid-Atlantic gathering of Queer Pagan Men that is set to take place October 9-12, 2019 in Cumberland, Virginia.

Arcadia: The historic place

Historic Arcadia was a region located in the central highlands on the Peloponnese peninsula in Greece.  The Arcadian tribe that originally settled the area is considered one of the oldest tribes to have settled in Greece.  Because it was a remote, mountainous place, Arcadia was a cultural refuge.  Its language and culture remained unique.  Arcadia had numerous towns in both the mountains and in its fertile valleys.  The landscape included mountains, forests pastoral land, and rivers.

Arcadia is mentioned in works by ancient writers such as Herodotus and Homer.

Mount Lykaion is one of the major historical places of the region.  Mount Lykaion is the home of the ancient Lycaean Games dedicated to Zeus and Pan.  These games were similar to the ancient Olympics and took place very four years.  The mountain featured an altar to Zeus which featured two pillars topped with statues of golden eagles.

Mythology related to ancient Arcadia

Arcadia is named after the mythological character Arcas.  Arcas was a hunter who was the first king of Arcadia.  He was the son of Zeus and Callisto.  Besides hunting, Arcas is associated with weaving and baking bread.  Arcus and his mother Callisto are also associated with bears. Arcus was later turned into a bear and put into the heavens among the stars as Ursa Minor, the Little Bear.  His mother Callisto is Ursa Major, the Big Bear.

Arcadia is the home of the satyr God Pan.  Pan is the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature, rustic music, fields, and groves.  With his ever erect endowment, Pan is associated with sexuality and fertility.  Pan was said to lust after and chase nymphs and shepherds alike.

Zeus also had a special place in Arcadia, especially at Mount Lykaion.  The place is said to have been the birthplace of Zeus (aka Zeus Lykaios or the Wolf Zeus).  Zeus and King Lycaon, the first King of the area, also play into one of the world’s first recorded werewolf stories.  King Lycaon wanted to test to see if Zeus was really a god.  To do so he invited Zeus to a feast and fed him the roasted flesh of the king’s own son.  Zeus didn’t fall for it and punished Lycaon by turning him into a wolf.  Speaking of wolves, the Lycaean Games mentioned earlier featured a secret rite of passage for young men.  In this ritual, the men were said to become wolves for nine years.  In some of these rituals, the youth would take off his clothes, swim across a river or marsh, and become a wolf on the other side – again for a period of nine years.

According to mythology, Atalanta, a Greek heroine, was the daughter of King Iasus of Arcadia.  Atalanta was a virgin huntress who refused to marry.  She was a fierce hunter who swore an oath of virginity to the goddess Artemis.  She was so fierce that she slew two centaurs who tried to rape her.  She also took part in the hunt for the Caledonian Boar and was the one who eventually killed it.

The god Hermes was also honored in Arcadia.  One of Hermes oldest temples was on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia, and Mount Cyllene was said to be his birthplace.

The wilderness of Arcadia was said to be the home of various magickal and mythological creatures including satyrs, centaurs, dryads, nymphs, and other spirits.

Look out for part 2 coming soon… To find out more about the Arcadia Gathering, please visit:
http://www.olympuscampgroundresort.com/index.php/events/arcadia


Latest Podcast Available Now — Episode 17A: The Conspiracy Show Part 1

My latest podcast episode is out.

The newest episode is all about conspiracy theories — why we love them, some of the more popular theories, and how right-wing conservatives are a hotbed of conspiracy theories during the Trump presidency.  We’ll also explore my friend David’s wild “conspiracy” theories about North Dakota.

This is part 1 of a two part episode.  Part 2 will be out in the near future.

You can listen to the newest episode on my website at: http://www.melmystery.com/

It is also available on Podbean and iTunes.


Latest podcast now available — Episode 14: The Update Show

In episode 14: The Update Show, I provide updates on what I’ve been up to including:

  • Conferences and gatherings – The Hero’s Adventure, Querent, and Between the Worlds
  • Updates on my book and an LGBT werewolf workshop I’m hoping to do at Marscon
  • My photography
  • My local LGBTQ / Pagan / Alternative website
  • Activism
  • Groups including the New Order of Chaeronea and Order of the Stone Circle
  • My big project – I’m working toward starting a campground / retreat center
  • Personal updates

You can find my show on my website: http://www.melmystery.com, and through iTunes and Podbean.