This month being Queer Pride, I realize these days I say very little about it. I find as I walk deeper into my mad Merlin phase of my life and once easy details and linear processes become more and more of a challenge to the mystical side of me, a lot of my identities and labels become less and less. I’m not necessarily questioning these things, but they simply are, and are not in my conscious mind in the way they once were. Sometimes I don’t quite even identify as a Witch in the way I once did, despite Witchcraft being my guiding star. But I’m a gay man, polyamorous with two partners, a triad all together that is serious and deeply committed. I assume people know if they want to know, but don’t say much because I say less and less these days. Things will unfold naturally if we spend time together, or they won’t.
While coming out in your twenties seems late today, I was pretty alone in my peer group when I did it almost thirty years ago. Holding hands in public was a radical act that I felt often put my life in potential danger depending on where we were, but we did it anyway. Pride was less a riot, and more of a celebration of a successful riot. Much of what is critiqued today in Pride was seen then as a sign of acceptance or success, or at least acknowledgement that we were part of society. HIV was still a huge stigma, but it was less mysterious, though still deeply frightening, and probably affected my generation’s sexual views far more than we care to admit today. It was time to be seen and to see, in all the spectrum from adoptive families with kids to leather daddies and dykes on bikes.
I had posted a few places online how much I am in love with the Netflix show, based on the great comic, Heartstopper. I’ve rewatched and thought of it often. It’s a weird mix of optimism and joy amid the struggle, and at times I try to compute what that would be like when I was a teen or early twenties and I can’t. Today there is level of openness and acceptance of queer youth to have such a thing on mainstream tv services and a level of wholesome optimism, without forgetting in the many horrible ways the world is on fire and how hard it is to be optimistic for the future and not all queer youth everywhere are accepted. Yet it’s radically different from when I was growing up. And yet, my generation thought surely we would have had nuclear war by now and be living in a Mad Max scenario. In my youth, the gays were either the villains, coded or not, or the tragic victims of murder or death by suicide. I’ve joked that the first Suede album of 1993 was my Heartstopper – the first time seeing what appeared to be two boys kissing on a record. I remember purchasing it in El Paso, Texas of all places, while on a visit to my Dad who was working there over the summer, and my Mom questioning what it was, though I was a glam metal kid, so she was also used to me seeking rock stars who looked like a theatrical drag and make up. Cinderella and Poison were staples in my house. Yet Suede was two boys kissing, and their lyrics flirted with queerness and bisexuality, as well as drug use and tragedy, and at the time, that was all I really hoped for in my life – creativity, artistry, running off to a new life of music and outsiders. It was the most positive image I had of being gay, yet it was no happy ending. It was tragic, but in the way I was artistically drawn to be. I had resigned myself to the idea that I would never have what my parents had, in terms of romance and a long lasting relationship. We didn’t have that. We did, but at that point, I didn’t know anyone like me who did. I assumed I would be at the very least estranged from my family, friends and old life, and I was and still am, with some. Pride and related events and social groups were a great way to meet people of all ages and see queer adulthood in a real way. Yet a little bit of me, before my first Pride, stubbornly held onto the idea I could have anything and do anything I wanted if I wanted it hard enough and just did it. That served me well in Witchcraft later on, and has served me well for most of my life.
I am grateful that around that time my beloved Lynne opened the door, after ten years of being in my life, to her own secret magickal life, and let me step through to her. That led me to Laurie Cabot, who helped empower me, and showed a spiritual tradition where I could not only be accepted after my leaving Catholicism, but celebrated. The core thread of Witchcraft gave me an ancestral spiritual connection to the past, and a realization that I was a link in the present to move towards the future, the responsibility of a priesthood, and a responsibility to those who have gone before me to uphold the magick, the healing, and the wisdom. I was part of something bigger – something ancient and powerful that stretched through time and was rising once again. Through Witchcraft, I shed a lot of my pessimism, my fatalism of belief that I might never have what I wanted, and had to settle because I was gay, and embraced the idea that I could do anything fully. I had an outlet for my stubbornness – magick. And a system to check in when my stubbornness was outweighing my wisdom – meditation and divination.
Comparatively not long after that, starting my studies in 1991, I met the love of my life, Steve, in 1995 just as I graduated college, and we began a magickal life together, being more than I ever thought was possible. I thought I could have love, but didn’t give much thought that he would also be a Witch, and we could have such a life. We got married in a time when one could not get legally married. While the legal protection is a boon today for those who choose it, we didn’t let anyone tell us what we could and couldn’t do, and were married in our eyes, in the eyes of our community and conducted ourselves as such, by our own rules, in our own ways. When I think about being queer and Witch, on the edge, on the outside, I think its that more than anything else that is the definition of it for me. Steve introduced me to queer social groups, clubbing, and Gay Pride and I loved it all. Then it was also like another secret community, not so secret anymore, but a special connection much like Witchcraft. You knew a lot of the same people, there was a network and within those networks some deep friendships. It was the not so secret-secret life. Not secret because I refused to hide my Witchcraft or my gayness. When your teacher is the Official Witch of Salem, and not shy about it, you learn to embrace it. I introduced Steve as my husband, and thankfully at that time of our courtship, I was working in the Boston music scene, at Fort Apache, and got tons of support in that area of my life. But secret because even if people knew what I was, on both counts, no one who wasn’t a part of it really understood. Some of my Witch friends accepted but didn’t get being gay. Many of my gay friends were freaked out by the Witchcraft, but still loved me. And when you had those few who crossed into both, it was magnificent. That is one of the reasons queer pagan spiritual spaces has been so important to me in various times of my life, from the beloved Between the Worlds community meeting in Ohio every year to our social group turned into The Circle of the Sacred Thyrsus. I participated in each for over ten years.
No sooner did we get perceived as the ideal couple, straight or gay, by many people in our lives, and seemingly downright conventional for two self employed gay Witches, we met the love of our life again, in meeting Adam in 2005, also a gay Witch and not necessarily identifying as polyamorous at the time, found ourselves in a relationship all together. Again, by our own way, without our rules and not letting anyone tell us what we could or couldn’t do. Despite cultivating a magickal, Witchy, queer peer group ,we lost friends over that, but we gained new ones and I regret nothing.
Our life unfolded with Adam, and Steve and I had already an embryonic plan to open up a retreat center in Vermont that with Adam soon bubbled into building a Temple, with our relationship and magickal experiences as a triad breaking our previous polarity based dual High Priestess and High Priest paradigm, forming the foundation of much of the magickal work, teachings and structures that followed. Again, doing our own thing and sharing it, but not letting anyone say you can’t do something. I wasn’t interested in the groups and structures that were available at the time, so we decided to create something else, and share it with those who wanted to try a different way. While the Temple of Witchcraft is queer friendly, certainly, it’s not our focus, despite some people’s misperceptions. More people are straight than queer in the Temple.
Ironically once Gay Marriage was legal, we chose not to, because the dynamic of having two out of three legally married would upset the symmetry and equalness of our relationship, which shocks many people. Didn’t we fight for this right? Yes. We marched. We signed petitions. We gave money and we even did Witchcraft, working at the time by founding a group of Boston area Witches and Magicians (and two Yogis) for Magickal Activism. Yet we did it so people could have the choice, and we chose not to do it. And again I don’t regret it. The law never meant much to me to begin with and didn’t change the reality of my marriage. “Be Gay. Do Crime” was simply the act of defiance of living your life. We just had to do the paperwork to make things covered, which is a drag, but we do it to have the freedom to do things the way we want. If queer folk want to get married, I think that’s great. I guess I”m waiting for poly-marriage if we ever take the legal option, but I’m certainly not waiting for anything. I’m living, and taking more action for poly-marriage doesn’t seem like where I should be putting my energy when so much else is going on in the world.
So am I proud? Yes, in the fact that I’m grateful to all those who came before me, so I could have greater safety and freedom to do what I want. I am proud to pass on whatever good I’ve done to a new generation. I am happy whenever people gather together for a good purpose, be it to fight for something better or to celebrate community together. We march often in Pride. We attend events. Often it’s an excuse to go out and see people, or be party-social which is infrequent these days. While important, its one of many important things interwoven in the cycle of my life, and not something limited to June every year. But the Pride I celebrate is the one that helped me shed my inherent pessimism as a queer person living in this world and simply be. Pride in my inherent dignity, and the inherent dignity of all people, queer or not, to do what they want to do and be who they want to be regardless of society or the law. Harm none as much as possible, and live your life. No permission. No regrets. Queer Pride for me is participating in, furthering, supporting or creating new options for life, community, relationships, and spirituality. Nourish and support others. Create good spaces for yourself and others. I find myself that when I participate in resistance and conflict, the more I seem to strengthen the very thing I seek to dismantle. So I’ve chosen to be water, to flow, to let it dissolve and rust the old structures by living the way I wish to be and engaging with the rest of the world so they can see my heart. I don’t seek to emulate straight culture, but I’m free to be or do anything I want to be in my heart, and act from that place. If you approve or like it, or me, great. If you don’t, so be it. Shifting people’s expectations, beliefs, and prejudices one relationship at a time is hard work, but it’s also not my intention. It’s the by-product of my life. That’s being queer to me.
Don’t wait for someone to give you permission, or a law to change. Work to change laws as you are called to do so, but live your life regardless, stubbornly expressing who you are, doing what you want and making it all you can, no matter what. Be joyful. Be yourself. Live your life without apology for you who you are.