Being LGBTQ can be hard on us in many ways. The most known are how it can change our relationships with family and friends. We also can see how it affects job and such. What is less talked about is how it may affect our belief system. Most of us grew up in a Christian or pseudo-Christian household and that effects how we are accepted and process our world. For me, I found paganism as my escape for acceptance. But the path isn’t/wasn’t always so welcoming. For the purposes of this article, we will discuss most under the umbrella term of paganism to make it a bit easier. I wont be bringing in witchcraft as it is not interdependent on a pantheon for its practice. We will also be limiting things to the Modern/Post Modern Pagan movements. With that said lets get started.
One of the biggest influences into the modern pagan modality is Gerald Gardner (1886 – 1964). Gardner wrote two books that shaped British paganism and have been the back bone for most other traditions. They were The Meaning of Witchcraft and Witchcraft Today. Robert Buckland also learned from Gardner and advances is American Paganism movement from his teachings. Gardnerian tradition only uses the gender binary options of male and female. There is no line drawn for Gardner’s stance on LGBTQ but one of his initiates, Lois Bourne, openly accused him of homophobia in her book Dancing with Witches. All of his writings place an huge emphasis on the male and female rights (High Priestess/Priest, the Great Rite – the “joining” of male and female energies). However, some of his other writings were more accepting, even going so far as to being receptive of Doreen Valiente’s version of the Charge of the Goddess
Zsuzsanna Budapest is the founder of the Dianic Wicca tradition that has evolved into a feminist movement, has proven herself to be a large bigot and considered by some as the perfect example of being a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist). All of her covens that were introduced in the 1970s were women only and pushed for lesbians and bi-sexual women. She refused to let male-to-female transgender in because they weren’t real women. She also largely opposed the idea of gender identity.
Maxine Sanders, the co-founder of Alexandrian tradition. She put a large amount of emphasis on the importance of male female partnerships, but she also felt that trans women were “transvestites and not happy people.” She was quoted saying that she felty they could not fit into her tradition. Oddly enough, her husband later came out as bisexual, but no comment can be found on her views.
Most early forms of the modern paganism moment forced its LGBTQ people to “adopt the similar mindset” of the coven, to fit in. This also left little room for gender expression or identity. If you were initiated into the organization, they went with the gender you were assigned at birth as it suited the needs of the coven. It can be seen why this wasn’t very welcoming. While paganism is touted to be a matriarchal belief system, the founders of most of the traditions were men and the controlling force of the coven. This lead it to the belief that it was the cisgender male harem.
For most pagans, you really only have two ways to practice. There is the path of the coven and the the solitary path. Covens typically are a hierarchical structure that begins with initiates and ends with the High Priestess/Priest (depending on the flavor of paganism you follow). Initiation only happens after a year and a day of study to make sure you are in the place you belong and feels right to you. You are taught coven specific rites and beliefs and follow the matron and patron of your coven.
Solitary tends to be a harder path for most to follow. There is little guidance, except what you glean from books or other practitioners you may know. But with solitary you open up to be able to borrow from many traditions to make your own path or follow one that is already set up. Here you can worship how you choose to feel without the worry of how a coven may direct you.
With all this you may wonder why would anyone LGBTQ would want to follow a pagan path. The truth is, many of the founders were gay. We also know that ancient pagan beliefs were much more tolerant of diversity than those of the modern movement. That doesn’t mean that they were not heterocentric. Today =, many LGBTQ pagan and allies are doing what they can to recover ancient pagan traditions of gender variant, same-sex love deities, and discover or invent new symbols for diversity. Today we can see the pagan community accepting of marriage equality, gender expression/identities/
If you are wanting to pursue an LGBTQ focused pagan tradition, you are in luck there are a few out there that may be what you are looking for. Feri tradition, a modern for of traditional witchcraft that caters to neopagan LGBTQ people. They focus on the sensual experience, awareness, and sexual mysticism. It includes the use of Vodou, Faery Lore, Kabbalah, Hoodoo, Tantra, and Gnosticism.
Minoan Tradition has a brotherhood and sisterhood, but tend to operate in single gender circles/covens. They function as oath-both, initiatory mystery religions that stems from Gardnerian tradition.
Fellowship of the Phoenix was founded by seven gay men in the summer of 2004. Their system uses ceremonial magic, shamanism, and pre-Gardnerian craft. Their belief is surviving a community of men who love men and use the phrase “Find the Divine within your own experience” as their guiding tenant. In 2017, they underwent a reform that change the group to become open to all LGBTQIA adults.
Lastly is the Radical Faeries, they began in the 70s as a mostly gay male movement. Today they are more closely associate with counterculture movement that seeks to “redefine the queer consciousness through secular spirituality.” They do have events that can be tailored specifically to gay men, while others are open to all genders/orientations.
Paganism has been a part of my life since I first started high school. I have went through a lot of studying to try to find the place I would fit in. In the end, like some of these queer groups, I have found that my experience is what shapes my beliefs. I use a core set as a foundation and the rest is my own. Do not let anyone tell you how or what to believe, the choice is yours for your own reason. Find a place where you can truly be you and practice the beliefs you see fit. I leave you with this quote from Walt Whitman from Leaves of Grass.
“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you. You must travel it by yourself. It is not far. It is within reach. Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know. Perhaps it is everywhere – on water and land.”