Pumpkins by Shane.
My inner 12-year-old would like to remind you that October 2 is the 571st birthday of King Richard III. Follow efforts to clear his name at The Missing Princes Project.
78 degrees is how hot it’s expected to be today in Northampton. Thanks, global warming! It’s also a reference to the godmother of the modern Tarot renaissance, Rachel Pollack, whose book 78 Degrees of Wisdom blended psychology, mysticism, and and literary iconography to inspire deeper relationships with the cards. At Xtra Magazine, Jude Doyle assesses Pollack’s legacy as a pioneer of trans-inclusive feminist spirituality:
Here, from Pollack’s self-designed deck the Shining Tribe, is her description of the Emperor: “A number of modern tarot decks have taken on the issue of patriarchal culture. They have tended to see the Emperor as a kind of villain, with gentle, childlike males as an alternative. Such images both belittle men and demonize them.” Instead, Pollack offered, women who drew the Emperor card might try to see themselves in it: “It might be a strong experience to imagine ourselves as the Emperor. What might it be like to contain and express such power and determination?”
The Hierophant is changed to the gender-neutral “Tradition,” and that is that. It seems to be as close as Pollack ever got to a direct rebuke of her peers’ transmisogyny. Yet that tiny tweak—don’t look for male power, look for your power—changes everything about how people see these cards, and therefore, how they think about gender and power when reading them…
…Her biggest contribution to women’s spirituality, The Body of the Goddess, waspublished in 1997. For a trans woman to write a book on Goddess worship in the mid-’90s was gutsy. For a trans woman to call that book The Body of the Goddessis fucking bonkers. It’s mind-blowing. It gets more so when you open the book and find that Pollack’s Goddess not only likes trans women; she is one herself.
Pollack doesn’t ignore menstruation or childbirth as aspects of female embodiment, but she doesn’t stop there either. She also locates trans and gender-fluid goddesses throughout mythology. Some—like the intersex goddess Cybele and her likely transfeminine priestesses, the Galli—are canonical. Others are creative interpretations of existing myth: Pollack notes that the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, is “created” when a male God named Ouranos loses his genitalia. Afterward, Ouranos essentially disappears, and a brand-new, very feminine Goddess arises to replace him.
Even trans guys get a turn. Pollack tells us that Dionysus, the Greek god of wine, madness and ecstasy, was raised as a girl and was sometimes known as “the Womanly One” for his feminine looks and unusual kindness to women. In a 1995 essay for TransSisters, she gets even more detailed: Dionysus “went mad in adolescence,” was cured by Cybele, and went on to become an androgynous he/him whose myths portrayed him liberating people of all genders from the patriarchy. At rituals, Pollack tells us, “his male followers would dress as women, [and] his female followers would strap on large phalluses,” suggesting that liberation took a highly recognizable form.
Humorist Daniel Lavery is another of my favorite theologians, capering madly along that line between farce and horror. See, for instance, his questionnaire at The Stopgap, “Do You Think the Creator God Is Doing a Good Job, or Should Be Replaced by a Big Sheep or a Demiurge?” Bring back the formless void!
Gay provocateur playwright Joe Orton (1933-67) apparently had a sideline in altering library books to add satirical and bawdy images, then sneaking them back onto the shelves. You can see samples from the collection online. Not that I’m recommending you do this…
But there’s a hole just waiting to be filled.
“It’s both mystical and humiliating how your novel can know things before you yourself know them,” says the author of the queer coming-of-age novel Idlewild in this recent article at LitHub, “James Frankie Thomas on Discovering His Trans Identity While Writing Fiction”. Yeah, I know how you feel. Thomas describes a writing workshop, pre-transition, where the teacher and classmates criticized him for being coy about a self-insert character’s gender identity:
In all seriousness, I prided myself on my well-observed portrayal of teen girlhood in the early 2000s—specifically the way teen girls back then were consumed with the desire to be gay men. That was something you just never saw in fiction about teen girls, but Idlewild was going to change that. From the very first page, on which I introduced Fay as “a gay dude trapped in a female body,” I plumbed my memories of my own adolescence for universal truths about teen girlhood…
“Why not make it explicit from the start? What’s gained by withholding such important information about the character?”
And I wasn’t allowed to speak, so I just had to sit there and take it over and over. I was so flabbergasted, I bet you could see a giant cartoon exclamation point floating over my head. How had my entire workshop read my novel so wrong? Stranger still, how had they all read it wrong in the exact same way? There was only one possible explanation, something I’d long suspected but never dared to admit out loud: Everyone was stupid except me.
For what it’s worth, I also see myself in Richard Siken’s new poem “Pornography” in DIAGRAM Issue 23.4: “I want to fuck everything but I don’t want to be touched.”
Perhaps this is related, perhaps not: In the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, researchers Kristen Bottema-Beutel et al. question the objectivity of neurotypical researchers in their paper “Anti-ableism and scientific accuracy in autism research: a false dichotomy”.
Autism research focuses almost exclusively on autistic people’s perceived deficits relative to non-autistic people, and researchers rarely acknowledge that autistic people have strengths and abilities in addition to impairments, and exist in contexts that enable or disable functioning. Autistic people are often inaccurately described as missing core human capacities, and as incapable of social reciprocity or contributing to shared culture. Deficit construals persist even when autistic people show strengths in domains that would otherwise be considered positive, such as transparency, rationality, and morality.
The researchers argue that we can move away from these negative presumptions without sacrificing accuracy. They survey some now-debunked but still influential theories of autism’s causes, such as vaccines and insecure maternal attachment, which were considered objective but were demonstrably influenced by sociopolitical forces (e.g. backlash to mothers working outside the home). They also suggest that due to neurotypical researchers’ assumptions, common autistic behaviors like hand-flapping and echolalia have been dismissed as meaningless compulsions, when truly open-minded observation would reveal their communicative functions and nuances.
Speaking of repetition, this Missouri Review essay by Caitlin Horrocks, “Lullaby Machines”, reminded me of the hallucinatory early months of parenting the Young Master. Horrocks reminisces about trying to work, sleep, and stay sane while playing the same lullaby album 20,000 times. When Adam and I were reading up on parenting, one of the sleep-training books told us to keep a consistent routine. Baby Shane seemed to respond to this Spotify album of Celtic Harp Lullabies. Well, we played that thing on the iPad in his room every night for three or four years. We took it with us when we traveled. I used to joke that someday, as an adult, Shane would be at a harp concert with his boyfriend or girlfriend, “Woman of Ireland” would start playing, and he would have a Pavlovian urge to fall asleep and/or poop his pants.
Listen at your own risk.