My Truth Is Grey

Don’t listen to them when they say you’re either this or that. Don’t let them tell you that you can only love one or the other. Sexuality and romantic attraction is more fluid, has more grey-areas, than what some prefer to think. Sometimes those grey areas can become muddled, leaving someone questioning their own truth. It’s okay to question. Doing so should be encouraged, in fact. But, that doesn’t always mean it’ll be simple.

When I was younger, I barely realized that having romantic feelings for the same sex was something that happened. It took years for me to be able to realize (looking back) that my feelings for one childhood friend weren’t just platonic. I’d had a crush on her. Had I not moved away and had I thought she might share those feelings, maybe we could’ve been more than friends.
I was able to admit to myself as a teenager that I liked people regardless of their gender, but it took until after I reached adulthood for me to realize that I was also grey-asexual. This was something I’d never heard of up until then and I had worried that something was wrong with me.

Being married to someone who presents as a cis-gender male, people will often assume that I’m straight. For bisexuals, our identity is often erased by others who think that someone can only be gay/ lesbian or straight. Sorry not sorry, it doesn’t work like that. It’s not a switch that gets flipped.
Another assumption made is that being in a relationship and having romantic feelings for someone must include a sexual attraction. Sure, it does for most people. But, there are those who never experience that sort of attraction or desire. There are also those, like me, who only do sometimes. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with me, that I don’t love my spouse, or anything else.

Despite my own surety that I’ve figured it out, I should admit that sometimes I do continue to question. What if I really am a lesbian in denial, rather than a grey-bisexual (or is it pansexual*)? What if I’m not? What if I’m just a person who loves who I love, and wants sexual intimacy only once in a while regardless of my partner’s gender? That’s not a bad thing.

I am in that grey-area of love and attraction. There are many others. There are likely some who deny it because they’re told it doesn’t exist. It does and everyone who exists within it is valid. Don’t let them tell you it’s one or the other.

*While I am attracted to people regardless of gender, and so pansexual may be more accurate, I’m still attached to the label of bisexual and so that’s what I most commonly use.

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Should We Call It “White Privilege”?

Whenever the topic of white privilege comes up, you can rest assured that there will be disagreement. Between the deniers, the guilt-trippers, and all those in between; it’s a heavily sensitive topic. Surely there must be some sort of middle ground.
Why do we as white people have so much trouble accepting that this concept is rooted in reality? How do we go about discussing it in a way that doesn’t make assumptions on individual lives?

One thing many white people are quick to remind everyone, is that being white doesn’t automatically guarantee someone an easy life. Nor does anyone choose the color of their skin. The guilt card? It has to be thrown out for any sort of respectful conversation can be had. This includes the assumption that others are playing the guilt card when they very well may not be.

White privilege was brought up in a group I’m in and one member’s comment got me thinking. They brought up that white privilege is an institutional problem and that we need to approach the topic in a different way. This person said that (to paraphrase) the concept of white privilege breaks down when it gets to the individual level. This is very true. It is also dependant on location and who those in power are.

We are all aware that being white does not mean being wealthy or even that we won’t be bullied for our skin color. I am white, yet I was poor throughout my later childhood. I am still in the lower-middle income bracket in a poverty-stricken state. My first middle school was a majority black school, where a group of kids bullied me for being white. As a Pagan grey-ace bisexual woman, I have been subject to unfair biases and harassment. Yet, I do not have to face the same institutionalized issues brought about by racism that people of color do. Those in power aren’t making decisions on the worth of my life based on my skin color. Yes, I do have white privilege.

To counter the argument for white privilege, I will say that I have been told by a black man that it does not exist. There are other people of color who also deny it. I can not speak for their experiences. I can only speculate. It very well may be that people such as the man I spoke with have simply lived in locations where institutionalized racism aren’t as heavy of a problem. Or, perhaps, they were afforded other privileges that allowed them to get through life without facing the same racial problems that other people of their race do. Maybe these guesses are off base. Whatever the case, it is important not to take individual opinions in higher regard over each other. In order to see where the problem is and to fix it, we must take all experiences into account.

My thoughts on the matter are that white privilege is absolutely a real issue. However, it is not one that is painted evenly across the board. It needs addressed without making assumptions. White privilege isn’t about white people. It’s about the problems faced by people of color. It’s about those in power who allow their biases to favor white and white-passing people, who make unfair judgments on people of color. It’s about holding those in power accountable for making decisions and judgments on those they deem “not white enough”.

I have to wonder if calling it “white privilege” doesn’t properly address the real issue at hand. It’s not an incorrect term. It is, however, one that triggers defensiveness in many who might have otherwise at least tried to be allies. (See: White fragility.) I’m not about to petition for a change of terminology. It just might be a good idea for us all to learn a better way to approach the subject so that we can bring awareness to it.

The Conundrum of Gender

I have a confession of sorts to make. There have been multiple times that I questioned whether I’m really cis-gender. The pesky idea that I’m more boy keeps coming back. At one point, I had nearly decided that I was genderfluid. Then the idea floated away.

Growing up, I resisted the notions of what being a girl should include. I was a typical tomboy. Dresses and pink were for girly-girls, showing that I was tough instead of a “damsel in distress” was a badge of honor. I grew up on Dragon Ball Z, horrified by how the girls were often sexualized while envying the strength of the Saiyans. As I grew older, I slowly began falling away from some of that. Yeah, misogyny and rape culture would always make me uncomfortable. It would anger me. I was not immune to it and the disgusting behavior of grown cis-men toward both girl children and women.
Still, the shame of being a girl faded away. I wanted the power of being a woman. I learned to love the idea of being a woman… Even if I didn’t always feel like one. Yes, even if there are times when I feel more like the label of “boy” or “genderfluid” might fit better.

What is it that makes me a woman? I refuse to adhere to the idea that my reproductive organs are the deciding factor. I know that trans-women are women. Don’t try to convince me otherwise. They may have different struggles as women, but so do many cis-women.
I don’t know how anyone really knows what gender they are. Gender itself is really just a social construct, is it not? Or is that an oversimplification? I think it may be more complicated than that.

Perhaps, in the same way that I decided it was okay for me to be a woman, I may eventually give myself permission to be nonbinary. Or perhaps the idea of gendered labels simply don’t matter so much to me. The world sees me as a woman and I can live with that.

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The Privilege of Environmentalism

I recently joined an online group that was created to raise awareness on living a plastic-free life. It sounds great, but I was quick to notice an issue with some of the tips: being environmentally friendly isn’t always accessible.
The single-use plastic straw debate has brought up this issue in relation to reusable straws not always being safe for people with certain disabilities. I will not speak on that, however I do recommend researching views from that angle. The ability to choose more environmentally friendly options is also dependant on income and time available. This is where I will focus my post today.

In 2014, thousands in WV dealt with the water crisis that left us with poisoned water from a chemical spill for at least a week. Many are still afraid to drink tap water 5 years later, even with a filter. As long as the people of Flint, MI have been struggling to get water free of lead; should we really expect them to just get over it if they are told their water is safe? I wouldn’t blame them if they remain wary. Last I’ve heard, the water there is still poisoned. Issues like this are more likely to present in low-income communities. The wealthy can afford to replace their pipes and frequently have their water tested, after all.
Clean, safe water is an issue that can prevent many from choosing to simply refill reusable bottles. Whether the water can be proven to be unsafe or the people are made afraid by past incidents, it is a valid reason to choose to continue buying bottles or jugs of water for drinking.

In addition to this, those who are comfortable with using a filter may not be able to afford one. A good quality filter can be pricey for someone living paycheck to paycheck, and the filter needs replaced every so often. Sure, it may technically be cheaper to buy the filter instead of cases of water, but it’s not always feasible.
This goes for many other products people may purchase to be more environmentally friendly. It is often the single-use products that are cheaper than the reusable ones. There is an example using shoes that I’ve seen often enough: Someone may not have $50 to buy shoes that will last for years, so they spend $10 on shoes that they will need to replace in a few months. Those in poverty get caught in these cycles if they don’t have help. And when you’re caught in a cycle like this, being environmentally friendly is often at the back of a person’s concerns.

Even when someone is able to afford more environmentally friendly options, sometimes the issue of time becomes an obstacle. One may be working 2 or 3 jobs to get by and have some amount of spare money, but that leaves little room for things such as preparing lunches in reusable bowls or making soap to keep in reusable jars. People who have less free time will often choose the more time effective options of fast food and store-bought products in single-use containers.

I don’t think that the solution is to give up entirely. We should do what we can, when we can. It’s just also important to remember that environmentalism assumes quite a lot of privilege that not everyone has. It does no good to shame those who may not have the health or financial means to make better choices for the environment. (The group I joined doesn’t, but I have seen it done elsewhere.) To further this thought, it is clear to me that the type of capitalism that allows people to live in poverty is the very same that supports the pollution and destruction of the environment. In order to correct one problem, we must also correct the other.

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July for Loki

Many Lokeans have started celebrating July as a devotional month for Loki. This usually consists of a blog post each day for our mutual god. While I’m convinced that I can’t quite manage that, I did at least want to get one in this month. You know, instead of completely ignoring it.

If you’re not already aware of Loki as a god, you’re in for a real treat. Loki is a trickster deity hailing from the Norse pantheon. He does get a bad rep, but that’s just from those silly Christianized lenses that some people have. I can’t claim that Loki is always a model of goof good behavior. (See that? I could totally blame him for that typo if I wanted to. But, that honestly wouldn’t be fair. He can be a goof sometimes, though.) As a trickster, Loki often gets up to mischief. He also often solves problems, whether he created them or not.

For modern Pagans who work with him, Loki offers many lessons. Through his stories, we learn the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions, speaking uncomfortable truths, and not breaking our oaths.
Many view Loki as a god for the LGBTQA+ and outcasts. Loki does break gender stereotypes and may even be considered pansexual and gender-fluid. He is both Jotun and Aesir, trusted and mistrusted, a father to children who are judged based solely on fear and a prophecy.

As for my personal experiences with Loki, I have found him to be a caring and mostly patient god. Don’t go thinking he’s all sweets just yet. He has also tested me in ways that have forced me to rethink my biases, acknowledge things I wanted to ignore, and even outright frightened me. Loki may be a god that I love, but he does have his darker side. I have seen him as the ever-changing shapeshifter, the redheaded man who towers above me, the flame, and the angry/hurting figure in the shadows. He is a god with many sides to his story, many facets to his personality.

Loki is the blood-brother of Odin and a traveling companion to Thor. He is married to Sigyn of the Aesir and is a consort to Angrboda of the Jotun. Rather than taking his Jotun father’s name, Farbauti, Loki goes by the maternal “Laufeyjarson”. This may indicate that Laufey has a higher status than Farbauti, but that’s not proven either way.
Loki has 6 well-known children as attested in the mythologies. Fenrir, Hel, and Jormungandr are the wolf, half dead ruler of the dead, and serpent children of Angrboda who were each sent into separate places of exile by the Aesir. Narfi and Vali are the sons of Sigyn, the latter changed into a wolf by the Aesir to kill his brother. Sleipnir is the son of the stallion, Svaldifari, and is the eight-legged steed whom Odin rides. (Am I making the Aesir sound like dicks yet? Just stating mythological facts here… Okay, and there is more to these stories.) We also mustn’t forget the trolls whom Loki birthed after eating a witch’s heart, or the babes he birthed while acting as a milk-maid on Midgard.

He is a shapeshifter who knows how to use his cunning. He cut Sif’s hair, then proceeded to get the dwarfs to make multiple gifts for the Aesir as retribution: one was golden hair for Sif, another was Thor’s Mjolnir. In a less spoken of story, Loki helped to save a boy’s life from a giant (which the boy’s father lost a bet with) by hiding the boy as a fish’s roe and then killing the giant. That was after both Hoenir and Odin failed in the task.

Loki has many other names that he is referred to by. These range from relation-based to descriptive. A few of his kennings include Wolf’s Father, Loptr (airy or lofty one), Inn Bundi Ass (The Bound God), and the controversial Lodur (the god who gave blood and good color to the first humans). The names we know him by can give us clues to his roles in Norse mythology.

To The Ancestors

To those who left their homelands
In search of a better life
I honor you
To those whose homelands were invaded
Forced to either assimilate or leave home
I honor you
To those indigineous to this land I call home,
Forced off your lands, and cultures stripped away
I honor you
To those brought to this land by force,
Enslaved and stripped of your cultures
I honor you
To those who were the invaders
Who stole lives, land, and culture
I remember and see shame in your actions
To my ancestors of blood
I thank you for bringing me here
To my ancestors of spirit
I thank you for leading me here
To my ancestors from far and near
In both time and place
I honor you
May your good deeds be remembered
That we may live by example
May your struggles be remembered
That we may know our strength
And may your wrongs also be remembered
That we may learn and do better

Imposters Among Us

Religion has always been a susceptible tool to be used for abuse. People will claim to speak for deity, and sometimes even claim to BE deity. To a rational person, these people should be easy to recognize. At the very least, that’s what we often tell ourselves. That’s not to say that those who fall for it are at fault. The human mind is a complex thing that colors our choices with emotions that can make it difficult to discern when something is not quite right. Believers in a god/dess may sometimes become insecure in their relationship with deity. They may then grasp onto anything that makes them feel like there’s a connection. This is why those who would take advantage of that as a way to manipulate others are so dangerous. They know how to recognize an easy target and play on their emotions.

The issue is further complicated in belief systems that support channeling deity in some form. Whether it be as a medium, via horsing or possession, communicating via divination, or any other practice that allows for contact with deity. These are important, valid practices. They should, however, come with a sense of responsibility and discernment for all involved. Not only is there a risk of humans who take advantage of others, there are also spirits that will act as imposters to do so. Furthermore, when someone notices these practices being abused, we should speak up about it and nip it in the bud to the best of our abilities. We are all responsible when we take notice and continue to remain silent.

As someone who believes that communication and channeling deity is possible to varying degrees, I do have discernment methods that I apply. It can be frustrating at times, but it is crucial. Here are some questions that I ask myself:

If someone claims to have a message from deity:
Is this someone that I know well and trust?
Are they experienced?
Did I request their help?
Are they telling me the message, or simply saying that I should communicate with deity however I see fit?
Can I verify this message via meditation and/or divination?
Have I received any relevant dreams, signs, or other communication from deity?
Does this person benefit from this message in any way?
Do I so much as feel like something is wrong?

If someone is claiming to channel deity, I ask all of the above questions, as well as:
Are there any changes in body language and manner of speaking to indicate another being that is present (in the case of horsing/ possession)?
Is this person able to voice knowledge that they normally do not know?
Can they answer a secret question or tell me something that only myself and the deity should know?

This is not an exhaustive list and it should certainly be tailored to one’s needs. I do strongly feel that, when channeling deity, the person doing such should never be viewed as the deity. I also believe that a person channeling deity may not always be given access to all knowledge that deity has. This can make it seem like discernment is a bit more difficult, depending on the nature of one’s interactions, but I cannot stress enough the importance of asking questions anyway. A major red flag is if the person channeling deity refuses to answer questions or acknowledge any doubts that one may have. Your safety is by far more important than whether someone else feels trusted.

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