Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Argument for a Fertile Homosexuality

In my last post, I turned to evolutionary biology to make the case for homosexuality as a natural part of the cycles of fertility, justifying the inclusion of gay people in those occult traditions which are centered around the fertility cults.

For the longest time, admitting gay men and lesbians into their covens was a huge issue within some witchcraft circles.  Though nobody would go so far as to publicly declare that gay men and lesbians were NOT a part of fertility, there was a decided lack of knowledge about how we fit into the cycles of fertility, and, therefore, how to include us in fertility cult traditions.

Even gay men and lesbians, themselves, lacked (and still lack) a coherent and universally recognized theory for their own roles within the cycles of fertility (both in and out of occult circles).  For many of us, finding a partner, settling down, and raising a family was/is viewed as "playing it straight."  In fact,  back when I was coming out (in the 90s), gay men my age and older would dramatically roll their eyes whenever I said that I wanted to get married.  A few of them even went so far as to attempt to shame me for "trying to be something I wasn't," and no amount of arguing that we deserved to be treated as equals with straight people would persuade them that I wasn't engaged in some radical form of self-loathing.

Our ancestors did not share in this lack of knowledge about the role that gay people played in the cycles of fertility.  According to James Neill (author of The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Society), paleoanthropologists who studied the behavior of early humans believe that one of the primary factors in the success of these early peoples was the evolution of group behavior and interdependence.  As our species developed, smaller societies and clans began to function as one organism, with individual personalities beginning to emerge and everyone contributing to the well-being of the larger whole in his or her own way.  Exclusively homosexual males have been documented performing a range of tasks from providing a "special friendship" to warriors on campaign to caring for the sick for these early clans.  However, regarding the concept of fertility and what we would call gay men, the most interesting fact about exclusively homosexual males in these early clans is that they were protectors of the domestic sphere.  They assisted the women in gathering nuts, berries, tubers, and firewood, but they also served as guardians in case the tribe was attacked while the other men were away at war.

Neill says it best: "With no children of their own to absorb their energies, these homosexual members would have been better able to assist their close relatives.  The presence of these non-reproducing adults would have had the effect of increasing the proportion of productive workers in the total population of adults and children, thereby raising the per capita productivity of the group in their efforts to bring in such necessities as food and firewood, and in tending to domestic chores.  Because of the extra help these individuals [exclusive homosexuals] would have provided, their close relatives would have been able to successfully raise more children, and the ability of the group as a whole to survive would have been enlarged." (p. 72)

An argument might even be made that families with access to these exclusive homosexual members thrived while other families without exclusively homosexual members perished … or, at the very least, were less successful.  It might even be said that most of us today owe our existence to exclusively homosexual ancestors, because, without them, our particular ancestral lines might have died out long ago.  Within the terms of evolutionary biology, this scenario is referred to as the "kin-selection hypothesis."  So, contrary to the popular opinion today that gay people are completely removed from the cycles of fertility, if evolutionary biology and, specifically, the kin-selection hypothesis are correct, it would seem that gay people have a long and deeply rooted tradition of assisting the fertility of their family, tribe, clan, or community.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Homosexuality & Fertility

With the celebration of the Spring Equinox having just passed, it only seems appropriate to talk about the role of homosexuality in the natural cycles of fertility.

Many opponents of homosexuality (most notably the Christian Right) believe that it is unnatural, and, being unnatural, it should not be tolerated.  It is rare to find a magic(k)al organization or individual who feels as staunchly as the Christians in question do on this subject, but the outcropping of this prejudice does appear within the stratum of many modern magic(k)al communities.

Traditional Wiccan covens, specifically British Traditional Wiccan (BTW) Covens, (and I speak of this, because it's what I know best, certainly not because this is the only place in Wicca or witchcraft that it happens) have a long history of denying gay men and lesbians entry into their ranks due to concerns regarding polarity and what it takes to light that magic spark.  Over time, many covens loosened their restrictions, allowing Gay men and Lesbians into their circles, but only if the initiate agreed to practice within the coven as part of a heterosexual pairing, only if they agreed to be initiated by a person of the opposite gender/sex.  Even today, there is a great debate going on within the British Traditional Witchcraft community about polarity, cross-gender initiations, and how to handle Gay male, Lesbian, and Transgender initiates.

While it is tempting to shake our fists and rail against the system on this subject, one really cannot fault the BTW community.  At the very heart of their argument and, consequently, at the heart of their resistance to the concept of homosexuality within the coven dynamic is a reverence for their traditions and a desire to preserve what they know for a fact works.  When their covens were originally formed, they simply did not have access to the level of information that we have at our fingertips today, in the Internet Age.  Furthermore, even today, with all the information that we have at our disposal, nobody can agree on the correct procedures for a great deal of information that is fundamentally central to the practice of Witchcraft.  On the most basic level, you have eclectic, self-taught Wiccans/witches arguing that their self-initiations are valid, while a great deal of the coven or tradition-based witches argue that it is essential to be part of an initiatory Coven to truly learn the Craft.  Even within the initiatory lines of Wicca/witchcraft, you have a great deal of disagreement.  The Gardnerians and Alexandrians both believe they are the standard, but back in the day, Robert Cochrane dubbed Gardner's group of witches "those Gardnerians" as an insult to differentiate his group (who was obviously doing it right) from theirs (who were obviously doing it wrong), and, since I mentioned Cochrane, don't even get me started on the Traditional Witchcraft and Wicca divide!

All that said, I would like to go on record, and say that as a gay male witch with BTW training, who went off and started a tradition of witchcraft that explores the male mysteries within covens of Gay and Bisexual men, homosexuality is most certainly a part of fertility, and, now that we have access to more information, it is the perfect time for new methods of working these old systems to crop up and flourish.

In evolutionary biology, there is a principle which says that if a structure, function, or behavior occurs in a number of individuals or species, and if it persists through several generations, then that feature can be presumed to serve some evolutionary function.  Homosexuality can be traced back to well-before the dawn of civilization.  We have written records of homosexuality dating back to Mesopotamia.  The Epic of Gilgamesh (the oldest written myth known to man) is about a loving and sexual relationship between what we, today, would consider a demi-god and his male lover.  If that one fact alone doesn't prove that homosexuality has been persistent through several generations, I don't know what else would!

If this foundational principle within evolutionary biology is sound and credible (and, personally, I believe that it is), then the "naturalness" of homosexuality when considered outside of personal prejudice should not need to be argued.  However, what one person calls prejudice, another calls preference, and since I am not here to talk anyone out of their beliefs (only to offer my own), I will simply present the argument and let you, dear reader, decide for yourself whether it is compelling or not.

Tune in next time for the argument …

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Need for a Sense of Pride and Purpose

Over the past 48 years (since the Stonewall Riots launched the gay community's Civil Rights movement), we have come a long way.  Though we have more rights today than we have ever had before as a community (we can openly serve in the military, we can marry whomever we choose, and we have several human rights organizations defending us and advocating for our continued rights in the political sphere), the damage that was done to our community in the past cannot be forgotten.  We were demonized.  That smear campaign was so successful that it made many of us hate ourselves and each other, but worse than all that, our contribution to society was erased from the pages of history.

Just after I earned my third degree as a Wiccan High Priest in 2011, I recognized a need to make traditional witchcraft more inclusive of gay men.  At first, I expressed this need by asking one simple question.  "Where is the romantic and sexual relationship between the Horned God and his male lover?"  The Goddess has been portrayed in a Lesbian relationship since the classical period.  Diana's female lovers are as much a part of her myth as the dogs with which she hunts.  However, the Horned God of Witches was not portrayed the same way.

From time to time, witches might pay lip service to the pansexual or omnisexual nature of a god like Pan, but it is quickly brushed over, and then they quickly turn back to his sexual encounters with the Goddess and follow their relationship through the Wheel of the Year.  There was no commonly accepted and celebrated stable and ongoing loving, sexual, or romantic relationship between the God and his male lover, and I wanted to know why.  (More on that in a future post.)

This one question led me to do what I did best: research.  I began studying the Horned God and the many faces that have worn that title for various traditions.  I studied ancient mythology and folklore, and I began reading about the male mysteries.  (Thank you R. J. Stewart!)  Eventually, my research began to coalesce.  I found a book called The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relationships in Human Society by James Neill, and his bibliography led me even deeper down the rabbit hole.

What I found from reading Mr. Neill's book (and countless others from his extensive bibliography) was that men who exclusively loved men had a very rich and beautiful history of being magical practitioners for the tribes they served all the way back before the dawn of civilization.  Though Western Society had attempted to wipe us from the pages of history, and though that campaign was relatively successful all things considered, there were still tattered threads that could be followed to help us reclaim what we as a subculture had lost.

This pride in our history and the sense of purpose it can give us as men who love men is sorely needed by gay and bisexual men today.  We live in a world where being "feminine" is a bad thing.  Men are still ashamed to throw or do ANYTHING like a girl.  Even women use that as an insult against men.  Men who grow their hair long are judged.  If a man knits, sews, or crochets, he is viewed to be "odd" at best by mainstream society.

Even gay men judge other gay men harshly if they are too feminine.  "If I wanted to date a girl, I would be straight," "No fems," "Straight-acting here" are all phrases that are casually thrown around on gay dating sites.  It's really very damaging, but without a sense of pride or purpose, how can we fault each other for this particular transgression, especially given the antagonism leveled against us by mainstream society?

Something has to be done, and, personally, I believe the answer is to empower gay men and to give them back their sense of purpose.