A clause for concern
by Phil Hine
First published in Moonshine magazine, No.25.
Clause 25 of the Criminal Justice Bill is all set to 'criminalise', for Lesbians & Gays, a wide range of social activities that other people just take for granted. Exchanging a kiss in public, holding hands, arranging a date via a friend, staying overnight in someone's spare bedroom. "So What?", you might think. After all, 'it's not natural'; 'it's disgusting'; it's not my problem. But how would you feel if, every time you wanted to exchange a kiss in public with your lover, there is a possibility of arrest, imprisonment, and even compulsory medical treatment? Alternatively, there would be as well, the very real threat of getting the shit kicked out of you for being 'queer'. Think this would affect your world-view? It does mine.
So why am I writing this in Moonshine? What has Paganism to do with sexuality, or politics for that matter? Well I can't seperate them out. Being a Pagan helped me a great deal with coming to terms with my own sexuality. When I first began to come out as Gay, I received a tremendous amount of support from my Pagan friends. I find there's a lot of cross-over; being Pagan can lose you friends, a job, or estrange you from your family, in the same way that declaring your sexuality can. Both require you to examine yourself - to look within and say "this is what I am" -and feel good about it, even if you can't always be open to everyone.
Clause 25, ultimately, will effect us all, regardless of our sexual orientation and politics. It effects us all because it will, effectively, legitimise homophobia, a name or word-virus which says that 'real' men can't be gentle, affectionate with each other, or treat women as anything other than objects to be 'screwed'. Homophobia is one of the basic control-codes that maintains Patriarchy by defining the limits of masculinity, in such a narrow way that any man who tries to step outside it will be branded a 'faggot'. Interesting word that. Faggots are bits of wood that get burnt. This derisive word hearkens back to the 'burning times' when Gay men were burnt at the stake. The number must have been many, for the word to get into popular usage. Historically, Homosexuals and Pagans are both 'heretics', and share a common heritage of persecution. Likewise, in Nazi Germany, Occultists were sent to concentration camps, and over a million Lesbians & Gays were gassed in the death camps.
And the witch-hunts continue. Interesting that the same people who stirred up the Satanic Child-Abuse scare are the ones who issue "Kill a Queer for Christ" bumper stickers.
On another note, there is an increasing number of Lesbians & Gays becoming interested in Paganism and Magick. For me at least, being Pagan is about discovering my own individual path and exploring it, in an atmosphere where people make allowances for individuals. It's a lot better than certain other religions, where being Gay instantly means you're in league with the Devil, or damned. Like I say, largely, my other Pagan friends have given me a lot of warmth and support. Which says more about them as people than Pagan beliefs per se. Why do I say this? It's because there is almost a complete absence of literature that takes a positive attitude towards Lesbians & Gay men becoming involved with Pagan or Occult paths. There is however, a quite strongly expressed belief that homosexuality (particularly male) has no place in Paganism or Magick. I've heard this from Wiccans, Pagans, Thelemites, Qabalists, etc. A few writers such as Dion Fortune and Gareth Knight have stated that homosexuality is a form of 'Black Magic'. Outdated ideas? Perhaps so, but these writers' ideas are still being circulated as 'Spiritual Truth' and when prejudice becomes legitimated as 'spiritual truth' then the Pagan who takes on board such a belief is not a million miles away from the ranting Evangelist screaming "All witches worship Satan".
Well you might say, "Why don't Lesbians & Gays adapt what is written for the majority (i.e heterosexuals) in books." Well we do. But if all books on Paganism were written for women, how would men feel about 'adapting'. What I would like to see happen is Lesbians & Gays weaving our own forms of spirituality that are pertinent to us, rather than 'fitting into' a spirituality which has no definite place for us. Again, with Clause 25 in the pipeline, such literature may be difficult to produce, especially if we want to look at our own sexuality. Can you imagine one of the popular occult publishing houses printing a book promoting Gay Magick? Okay, its a minority subject, but occult publishing is all about 'minority subjects'.
A final point I would like to offer is that those who dare to face oppression by standing up and saying "this is what I am", are those who act from a mind-set of power-from-within. I've always kicked against the middle-class, safe, self-satisfied Pagans and Magicians who, to me, are simply buying into and reflecting a rose-tinted mirror of society as it is, not as it could be, if we dared to look beyond its walls. Magick flourishes amongst the oppressed because all normal channels are closed. It's the only option left. It's hard to have a benign spirituality when it's being hammered into you (sometimes literally!) that you're different - despised and abnormal. It's not the 'safe' expressions of spirituality that help us grow, it's the resistance to the claws which reach out for all of us. Look at the impact of the magick which has risen from Feminism and Women's Spirituality; rituals at Greenham and the works of Goddesses. So too, the modern Gay Liberation movement grew from the Stonewall Riot, where for once, despised 'faggots' stood up to the truncheons and mace - a magical act, if you like. We can choose to stay safe, or we can choose to try and evolve - a dangerous undertaking to be sure, but worth it. As Pagans, we've dared to be 'different', so where's the problem in recognising and empathising with other's who've also dared?
Don't feed the beast; fight the Clause.