Phillip Pullman blunders about Twitter, wondering which side he should take on the “trans argument,” then gets huffy when transfolk offer suggestions. This from the author of the Dark Materials books, conceiver of the alethiometer (truth-meter!), and guy whose whole thing is “let’s not encourage theocratic oppression.”
Here in Massachusetts, we’re voting on whether transpeople should continue to be legally protected from harassment and discrimination. (Spoiler alert: the answer is YES on 3.)
Routine spiritual bypassing and light-washing over trans rights, misogyny and sexual abuse, race, poverty, and this, the fascist Renaissance carries on across spiritual and occult media.
Trans women of color continue to be murdered at alarming rates.
It’s all a bit much. We need to have a chat about the human rights that are trans rights.
I love and appreciate Beth Maiden’s recent article on the Memo in the US and the Gender recognition Act in the UK over at Little Red Tarot. It hurts my heart that LRT is winding down, but I’m excited to see what Beth does next. She’s already done a great service for queer and intersectional tarot.
I allude to politics fairly often here, and I’m open about my sexuality (queer) and gender (nonbinary), but these aren’t the primary focus of my work. It’s probably past time for me to speak more about them. While many of my readers are queer, I do hope my rad cisgender and heterosexual readers stick around for these articles, too. I reckon not all visitors to my tarot 101 blog are up on queer and trans issues, so I’ve included one billion external links to sources and articles for you further reading and listening enjoyment. You are welcome to be here, and we’ll hit some points worth knowing, so settle in.
For starters, know that you know nonbinary and trans people. Know that you benefit every day from queer and trans voices. Did y’all know Pamela Coleman Smith, illustrator of the ubiquitous Waite-Smith deck and inventor of pictorial minor cards, was very likely a queer person of color? (I say “likely” because the history isn’t definitively clear. History likes to bury femme artists. But really? She was a queer WOC.) Did you know that renowned tarot author Rachel Pollack is an out and proud transwoman? Tarot would not be what it is today without LGBTQIA philosophy and artistry.
Other things worth knowing:
Physical sex markers are diverse, complex, and only fractionally understood; they can’t and don’t play by the restrictions society attempts to lay over them.
Sex isn’t binary and neither is gender. You cannot change that it is so anymore than you can stop the sun from rising.
No one allows or decides gender variance. It occurs. Gender variance is legitimized by the millions of people who experience it firsthand. It’s an intrinsic facet of nature, across multiple species, and within every level of humanity: physical, mental, and spiritual.
Defining transgender out of existence is like shooting a gun at the sky and expecting it to fall. Gender variance and modes of being beyond the binary aren’t just bigger than weapons, they’re bigger than our species. These fools have no idea what they’re opposing.
I grew up without language for my own experience of gender. The absence of language and community hindered and hurt me in ways I’m still processing, but it didn’t prevent me from feeling and being nonbinary. Like many others, I began writing my own language for my experiences. That led me to seek out others, hear their language, and keep writing more together. I don’t want future enbys to grow up as I did, but I know that if our work is destroyed, we’ll rage and we’ll mourn, and we’ll keep being born, and the next generation will write something new to replace what we lose.
If you purged the word fire from the dictionary tomorrow, you might hamper a generation’s capacity to contemplate and work with fire, you reactionary, anti-Promethean, sentient wad of dryer lint, you. You would not, however, purge the existence of fire from this universe or planet. You would not prevent the next generation from crafting fiery language and technologies. You would not protect yourself from burning.
You. Can’t. Change. Facts. With. Laws.
Oppressive and authoritarian regimes love to target large groups of people for ostracism, criminalization, and eradication on the basis of unalterable, inborn traits. (My white LGBTQIA loves and allies, I do hope your outrage over the memo predates the memo and extends to all the racist, xenophibic, misogynist, ableist, and classist human rights abuses at the core of Trump’s platform. If not, let’s get on that.)
Queer and gender-non-conforming people have been persecuted for centuries, always in conjunction with other systemic oppression, from Western European colonialism, through the Holocaust, to the Cold War Lavender Scare. We suffer under Trumpism. We’ve yet to go down alone. Historically, queer oppression is one of many threads in a vast, horrific tapestry.
As long as our species survives this era (we may not), any attempted suppression of queer, trans, and intersex people will fail. You can’t change facts with laws. Laws that target large groups of people by innate characteristics like gender, sex, sexual orientation, disability, race, and ethnicity do nothing to delegitimize the targeted groups and everything to delegitimize the laws themselves.
Resilience Is Not Transcendence
Our resilience is not transcendence. Our future survival does not condone or mitigate what happens here and now. Spiritually, the physical, waking, living world is real, and what happens here matters. No cosmic plan justifies the unnecessary suffering and loss of light and life that vicious elites mint to purchase greater dominion, clout, and financial gain. Secularly, historically, the certain continuity of queer life does not make right the tremendous violence, pain, and loss of culture bred by political and religious oppression.
If you live in the US, vote in the November election. Support democrats and socialists. Support indigenous, women, POC, disabled, and queer and trans candidates. If you must, vote strategically and cynically, even as you think idealistically. The system is broken. No candidate is ideal. Vote anyway, and vote wisely. Turnout matters more in the face of weakened democracy and voter suppression, not less. Looking at us, white leftists and spiritual seekers. We can’t rise above this by sitting on our hands.
Massholes, vote yes on 3.
If you’re not vocally and actively supporting queer, trans, and intersex communities right now, you’re not an ally. I assume you’re a Phillip Pullman at best.
People who think they’re being reasonable, AKA Phillip Pullman and friends:
Trans people would like to keep existing. People who don’t like trans people would like trans people to stop existing. That’s the debate.
On one side of the argument, everyone minds their business and carries on peacefully. On the other side, theocrats and the rulers they purchase dictate people’s names, pronouns, clothing, bodily autonomy, medical decisions, romantic partners, access to public facilities, access to healthcare, right to housing and employment, and right to leave the house as themselves. Those unable or unwilling to comply face ostracism and violence.
When trans people, especially trans people of color, are murdered, impoverished, and bullied into suicide at alarming rates, when trans identities are on the verge of erasure if not criminalization in the US, and already erased and criminalized in many parts of the world, stoking confusion over “the debate” causes significant harm, regardless of intention. Your confusion has a mounting body count. That’s not your fault, but it is your responsibility to mind which arguments you feed in public.
Nonbinary, trans, queer, and intersex folks are more visible now in the West than we have been in centuries because colonialism and oppression have razed trans language, bodies, and culture. We’re in the early stages of rebuilding culture and rewriting language after loss. We endure confusion ourselves. I can understand private confusion about any group of people you’ve only just met, given the circumstances.
It is not cool, however, to project your confusion out to others through your platform as a renowned millionaire with the attentive following that only a celebrated, old, white, male artist and thinker can acquire. There are so many thoughtful queer and trans voices out there—so many answers accessible to you, without your having to lend collateral credence to hate speech. Google is a thing. Private conversations with knowledgable people is a thing. Listening before speaking on Twitter itself is a thing!
It is downright unacceptable to set the inferred vocal tone of Twitter replies as the metric by which you judge a diverse subset of humanity you clearly don’t understand
You don’t protect anyone by hemming and hawing as you clutch your pearls and call for more kindness on social media. False neutrality blocks your alignment with human rights, history, anthropology, biology, psychology, medicine, art, and basic decency.
Don’t be Phillip Pullman, duckies. I know you’re better than that.
Phillip Pullman, I know you’re not reading this, but pretending you are—I’m disappointed in you because I love your books. My inner monologue subsumed the voices of Lyra, Serafina Pekkala, Lee Scoreseby, and Hester at a formative age. Your voice is a part of my voice. You’ve written some of the best passages on divination in fiction. The alethiometer is an image of beauty, grace, and genius. Given your resources, intellect, and body of work, I’d expect your inner compass to point truer. There is still time to listen, apologize, and do better dammit.
It’s a treacherous age for childhood myths and heroes. I’ll wait, but I won’t hold my breath.
To all my trans and enby readers: I see you. I love you. I want you around. I know this ungrateful and reeling humanscape needs you. You’re magic. Stay.
Thanks always for reading and be well. Much love!