Observations of the light and the dark of what is, was, and might be in the Pagan community's expansion and evolution.
Warrior & Queer
This is an update on something that I wrote for Green Man back in 1995 (Thank you Diane Conn Darling wherever you are). Surprisingly I had to change very little although 18 years have passed since I first wrote on this topic. Though framed through the lens of being Queer, this post has much to say about being a warrior and acting with honor. This is my way of saying give it a read — this is not a political rant and may be applicable to your life whoever you may be. I could have actually deleted the word Queer from this post and said virtually the same things. I could have justified that deletion on the grounds of making my post more accessible and perhaps more widely read and shared. However that would not have honored the root and the impetus for my ideas and observations, and moreover it would not be a warrior’s choice.
As a Queer man, each day that I spend in the world requires that I make the choice to be or not to be a warrior. With varying degrees of awareness, I believe this to be true for all people whose gender and sexuality falls outside the commonly accepted norms. Because of the Isms and Phobias that permeates us as individuals and as communities many of the seemingly mundane encounters with my fellow humans become tests and challenges. These words may seem a bit like hyperbole, but if you believe that each moment counts then they ring true. I experience being out as a Queer man as an obligation to myself, a political service, and a sacred duty. Further, the quality of how I express being out is in part the measure of my honor.
The elements that make up the path of the warrior can closely parallel the path walked by those Queer people who choose to be out. Walking this path is a task that requires constant adjustment; each step is falling and catching ourselves while trying to reach a destination. To be a warrior is to live balanced on the knife edge of free will and karma. Each action or inaction results in consequences that ultimately make up an individual’s destiny and their legacy. The warrior lives by an ethic based in personal honor which means they must live as if they were free. Pause and read that again. We are not actually free but we must live as if we were, if we are ever to achieve more freedom. We are all burdened by the yoke of oppressions, some internal and some external, and all partly known and partly hidden from our awareness. By living true to their inner self, the Queer warrior shows what might be possible to those that are still wearing the yokes that pull the wagon of oppression. Abiding by the truth of Nature and the truth of Spirit rather than the norms of the world is not without cost.
Indeed, the acceptance of the cost is part of being a warrior. Most Queer people are not out. Are they cowards? No, most are not, but where do you go to learn courage in this culture? The root for the word courage comes from the Latin word for heart. I believe that for most Queer people the process of coming into their adulthood, to their self-awareness of sexuality, and to their place in the world is a grueling, frightening, and disheartening journey. I believe that in part the scarcity of out Queer people is due to a lack of heart, but a greater part may be a lack of spirit. To be a warrior is a calling, a vocation, that can only be heard if the ears are open to the voice of spirit.
Until the resurgence of Pagan sensibility in the Western world, there were virtually no communities of faith where it was possible for queer people to fully express their spiritual yearnings. Some Queer people, through talent, perseverance, and divine guidance, have been able to create their own path. Exceptional individuals can find ways to flourish in social terrains where others barely survive. For those Queer people whose spiritual roots have not delved below the arid layers to the ancient waters deep below, the possibilities of a spiritual life that affirms the whole truth of their souls masquerades as a taunting mirage.
Before becoming a warrior, Queer people must undergo a quest. This is the quest for true identity. The beginning of coming out is becoming one’s Self. Like sexuality, and just about everything else in the manifest universe, enlightenment is on a continuum. The process of coming out is a quest for enlightenment because the quest for the Self is an echo of the quest for the Divine. When the nature of Queer energy is recognized by the seeker, it becomes possible to see others as connected in community. The old lie of “the only thing we have in common is what we do in bed” becomes absurd.
Being out is a sacrifice in the sacred sense of the word. For a warrior, sacrifice does not mean martyrdom nor does it mean the slavish devotion of a political soldier to an ideology. A warrior sacrifices himself because of personal honor, because it serves the greater good of the community, and because it expresses a spiritual truth. So long as those three conditions are served, being out is being a Queer warrior. To be out may result in the loss of employment, loss of housing, loss of opportunities, estrangement from loved ones, physical harm, verbal abuse, and even death. To accept these dangers, there must be faith in the future and an appreciation for the subtle inner rewards of a life lived in truth.
Every action against heterosexism is not necessarily the act of a Queer warrior. A warrior is effective; battles must be chosen carefully. A warrior’s actions are corrective — not punitive. A warrior’s actions must not be selfish, rather they serve self, community, and spirit. In concrete terms this means accepting the responsibility implicit in being a visible member of a hidden community. It means a willingness to teach, to dialogue, and to endlessly endure painful misconceptions. It also means denying oneself the thrill of shock tactics when the shock will not lead to a higher end. Conflict does not make a warrior but knowing when and why to engage does.
For myself, each new person I meet and each new social or professional setting brings new choices about how, when, or if to come out. With each day I must reaffirm my vows to myself and renew my belief that our society will grow healthier though I may not live to see the changes I hope for. A willingness to work for benefits that you will not reap is also another characteristic of the warrior path. Warrior is not my preferred role or identity; it is but one of many. Unfortunately, it is a role that is almost inseparable from living with integrity as a Queer man at this time in history.
If you substituted Pagan for Queer in this post, much would still ring true without changing a word. In fact you can plug in quite a few different identities and affinities and the song remains the same.
The first time I thought about being a warrior was in High School after listening to Wishbone Ash’s song Warrior. Give a listen here if you like:
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