[This is going to come off as a little harsh. Fucking deal with it.]
Phil Hine recently published a post on the topic of how gay-friendly Wicca really is or isn’t. This is a subject I spend a lot of time thinking about. As I have mentioned numerous times, a great deal of my background and much of my source material are Wiccan or Wiccan-influenced, but there parts that I have always had problems with. Admittedly, I had a great deal of trouble articulating some of those issues for many years. I still have trouble articulating them in ways that don’t hurt or alienate my Wiccan friends. I agree with everything Hine says in the post, and recommend that everyone also check out his ongoing series on occult gender paradigms*.
Wicca and many derivative forms of witchcraft are structured around a inescapably gender-essentialist idea of the world which is reflected in its conception of divinity. In my experience, the general rule is that the more Traditional a Wiccan path, the worse an offender it is in this regard. The worst implications of this can be seen in the old books of shadows, which explicitly encourage the eroticization of the power imbalance between student and teacher (Lady Sheba 115) and implicitly forbid homosexuality as an abomination (Ibid. 115-6). And from here we start delving into the issues V.V.F. articulates so beautifully. Ecclectic Wicca isn’t always as bad, but … it’s not generally very much better.
I’ve started and abandoned a post to this effect so many times that I’m surprised to cruise through my archives and find I’ve never actually finished one.
The whole “polarity” thing has read as fishy to me from the jump, anyway. Sure, if one follows the electromagnetic metaphor (see Hine* again for the problems with this), one needs two “poles” to create motion. But I have yet to meet the competent magician who can’t create that movement within themselves, alone, or had any trouble moving energy in tandem with any other competent magician. All the serious groups I’ve worked with balanced out magically by element rather than by sex or gender. When gender balance was an issue it was always one of cis-het-dudes assume they’re in charge and/or don’t listen when ladies talk, awkwardness and/or trouble ensues. (This was a key issue in the breakdown of the proto-coven.)
I’ve only seen a couple books on Wicca for queers, and I’ll be honest and admit that I’ve only sat down and read one—Penczak’s Gay Witchcraft: Empowering the Tribe—but they seemed to follow the same pattern. Much of what is wrong with Penczak’s book can been seen in the title: it offers queers a supporting role, an opportunity to use our super-special differences to support the community as a whole. He talks a lot about the various queer gods (insomuch as that distinctly postmodern construction can be applied to ancient figures), but when it comes down to brass tacks it’s just another Wicca Double-oh-duh except with a purple cover. The history is a little bit less wonky, which is probably why it’s published by Weiser instead of Llewellyn.
Many of these problems seem to stem from just how radical Wicca isn’t. (Most forms of it anyway. Reclaiming seems to have its shit together, but I’ve also never gotten to work with any Reclaiming folks, so that skews my perspective.) Many forms of Wicca simply trade a transcendent sky-father who disapproves of everything for an imminent pair of sky-parents who approve of (almost) everything. The value of “nature” changes, but often not the corrupt nature of humanity—“unnatural” or “disconnected from nature” instead of “fallen” or “sinful”, but whatever.
Ultimately, though, the whys and the wherefores don’t matter for shit. As a queer, I frequently feel excluded from or tangential to the Wiccan mainstream of neo-Paganism … when I don’t feel outright unwelcome. The ceremonial magic I’ve been studying lately is even worse (I have to call fucking phallocentric bullshit on a lot of that stuff, especially anything coming out of the GD).
The more time I spend in the Underworld, the less comfortable I get with any of the traditions I can find in print. Shit gets weird down there, yo. So weird even I’m not comfortable writing about all of it.
*No links for further Phil Hine because you should just read everything he has to say.
Lady Sheba. The Grimoire of Lady Sheba. Centenial Edition. St. Paul, Llewellyn: 2001.