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Article Specs

Article ID: 14072

VoxAcct: 378957

Section: words

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 1,952

Times Read: 2,834

RSS Views: 15,048
The Story of You

Author: Chi
Posted: October 10th. 2010
Times Viewed: 2,834

This essay was inspired by something I heard in a panel on Gay History. But it is not just for Pagans who call themselves queer – perhaps it’s not even just for Pagans at all, but for people. There is one particular group of people, though, with whom I would like to share this. That group of people is the Pagan community.

I was at an “over the rainbow” GSA (gay-straight-alliance) festival at a high school that I had never previously been to. It was rather far away, actually, and people were stunned that our humble GSA of five people drove out from our city for an hour and a half just to be there. Among the many events that were hosted, we first popped into the Gay History panel and later the Gender Identity speakers. I wish I could reference the names of those people here, as they were some genius and inspiring people, but I can’t recall.

This is, as best as I can piece together, an approximate quote from the gay history speaker:
“The history of the gay movement is different from lots of other histories. We’re a very future based movement, interested in attaining certain rights and recognition. We sometimes lose track of where we’ve been...and our history in general, it would appear, has not been a pleasant one. It’s not taught in schools, often not publicly acknowledged, and usually not brought up in the home. Most often, we don’t have parents or grandparents to sit down with us and teach us the history of it, the way ethnic groups can pass down their history.”

Does that sound familiar to anyone else?

The histories of the gay movement and Pagan movement have very much in common. I have never seen the gay movement taught in schools at all – up until junior year, a paragraph in my U.S. history book (luckily, my teacher had a better sense of what kids should know about the world around them, and elaborated on this one paragraph) . Nor have I seen the Pagan movement taught in schools. The only time I ever heard ‘witch’ brought up was, of course, studying early Americans and hearing about the Salem Witch Trials. Words like ‘Pagan’ or ‘Heathen’ have never been used, even when talking about tribal groups in Europe that quite clearly established some of the traditions that are considered “Pagan” by today’s standards.

Our history is not written down in very many books. I mean our real history, as a Pagan movement, not all the ‘How to be Wiccan’ books everyone says we need to be reading up on (which is, for me, a peeve of its own genre) . It’s not taught in schools.

Now, part of this is because Paganism is so vast, widespread, and untraceable in many ways. But wouldn’t it still be of value if, in basic world foundations and history classes, kids were taught more about the roots of Paganism – like the needs of ancient people to have markers for the seasons for the sake of their crops and survival? The importance of “mother earth” once the Neolithic revolution came along? When hunter-gatherers and agriculture merged to create a society that functioned in sync with the seasons and when the well being of children and the well being of the land were linked so closely?

Apparently not. When I wanted to give a presentation for my history class on such practices (as everyone had to pick a different topic) , the principal told me I would need the entire class to take permission slips for their parents to sign – and to clarify, I attended a public high school, in which we are expected to learn about a variety of religions.

I’ve heard similar stories in the gay community about people wanting to do reports on the roles of Gays in historical events, and who are met with the same standards: print permission slips, have administrators check your work (“So we know you aren’t ‘corrupting’ anyone”…) , be graded on a much harsher scale than other students, etc. This is the same way they go about determining if a class can watch an R-rated movie, if relevant to the curriculum, in a classroom.
Our history is not an R-rated movie.

Also, as it was stated in this panel, we often aren’t born into that history. It is likely that someone who identifies as queer does not have queer parents, and though not always, most of the time we don’t grow up hearing that history in our homes. So we set out to the Internet and the library, to see what we can find. Then there is the earth-shattering moment when we realize that it’s not enough. You have to get out there, in the world, and find people who share your struggles. You have to learn and teach people this history – YOUR history – and the lessons it has taught you.

This is much like the transition I went through as a Pagan. Not being born into a Pagan family (though I wouldn’t trade my family, their beliefs included, for the world) , and thus taking the Internet and books to be the teachers. Research, research, research. Maybe even feeling a little bit of regret that it’s not my family sitting me down to talk to me about these wonderful concepts, but a cold, worn book. And then knowing that simply understanding the words isn’t enough. You have to go out and do it. You have to learn to do the things you’ve read about, like tuning with the earth. You also have to go out and interact with people – on the Internet or in the community. You have to go out and help the cause. Plant trees, recommend books, attend festivals, whatever resonates with you as right. Teach the things that this path has taught you, and pass on little bits of faith.

But you are not just Pagan. You are other things.

For example, I consider myself to fall under many labels. Pagan. Queer. Half Swedish. Artist (ic) . Student. Nerd. Female. And so on and so forth. And I am these things, irrevocably, for the rest of my life. If I am Pagan now, I will always be Pagan. It is a part of myself that needs to be recognized and leave its story in the world. If I never painted or sketched ever again, I would still be an artist in the way that I see and experience the world. No matter what, I will always be a nerd, despite my previous attempts. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

This leads to the most important point of all: There is a history of Pagans, women, artists, Swedish and European people, nerds, gays, and many other things that are important to me. But I am not only the sum of the labels I fall under.

I am myself. And just like all the things that are a part of me, I have a story.

So do you. You as a Pagan. You as a man or woman; You as a race or ethnicity; you as a talented and skilled person; you as a son, daughter, husband, wife, brother, sister, mother, father, uncle, cousin, aunt, grandparent or whatever you are. There is a history behind being every one of those things – where those groups are and where they are going, how they came to e an established group. And although these histories need to be cherished, the most important one right now is the story of you.

Your identity. What shaped it. How you came to be this way. What did your environment do for you, and what did you do for it. These are the most important histories for you. You will be left to write and rewrite them. You will pass them down. You will leave your imprint on everything you ever come in contact with, but perhaps most heavily on the people closest to you.

And it is likely that history will not be taught in schools. But you can teach it, and the lessons that come along with it, to others. In a sense, you have a responsibility to pass on the best qualities of you to the rest of the world.

The man who gave the lecture that inspired this article is the author of the book 'Gay Seattle'. This essay was not inspired by his book, per say, but his point of view on the history of people and the significance of each.



Location: Bellevue, Washington

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