I belong to a group called Gay Pagans UK, which exists for gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgender Pagans, Heathens, Witches, occultists and such like (in the UK and Eire). We’re also open to LGBT people who are just interested in Paganism, and Pagans who support LGBT equality.
It’s an internet group, and it was originally founded by Martin Cummins as a Yahoo Group (or “club” as they were termed back then) called Gay Wiccans UK, in November 2000. Eventually we threw the name open to redesign, as “Gay Wiccans” really didn’t represent the membership and its diversity. We went through as many rounds of discussion and refining of expressed consensus as we could get anywhere with, and while there was no name that could please everyone, Gay Pagans UK was the best least-problematic name we could arrive at. A lot of us didn’t like “queer”, the pinks and lavenders got the elbow, rainbow had too many detractors, and we ended up with “Gay” in our title as the least objected to/most supported, even though we aren’t just gay. Wouldn’t have been my choice, but all I was doing was facilitating.
The group was very good for me, and I hope for others too. I learnt of things that were going on, and made friends both on and offline, and discussed a lot of issues and interests, all in an environment where I knew I was not going to meet the blatant or subtle kinds of homophobia and sidelining that had been too prevalent in occultism and Paganism at one time. It allowed some of us to set up our own LGBT Pagan moot in London, which is still going as The Rainbow Earth Moot, and publicize independent LGBT oriented or friendly moots around the country.
We were not (and still aren’t) a decision making, community representing group. We never had formal “meetings” other than self organized socials. We never did group rituals. All we had was each other and as much enthusiasm and friendliness as we possessed at the time. At our London moots in the early to mid noughties we pretty much made the decision that we wouldn’t do the “working group” thing as we had such diverse spiritual paths, though people were free to link up however they wanted. Our moots at the King’s Arms in Poland Street (a bear bar with an old Druid association going back to 1781) became well attended parties with a good mix of genders, orientations and paths.
Since then the London moots moved on to cafes during the day rather than bars running into the evening, to break the association with alcohol and socializing at gay spots where the energy could get off kilter, disability access was a nightmare, and few places would actually be neutral for everybody. We thought we would try decoupling from the Saturday night out ethos. The results have been (since 2007) variable in attendance but appreciated by those that did attend, stabilizing at a couple of tables of people usually. Sometimes we talk a lot about spirituality and sometimes we just chat. So we have Saturday afternoon coffee once a month, near The Aldwych in London.
Our internet group, on moving to Facebook, has got a new lease of life. We seem to be quite a stable and long lasting group (13 years and counting), and I think that’s partly because our weaknesses are our strengths. We’re not politically driven and right on, no one is going to be the queerest of them all, so there’s no barneys on the basis of ideology. There’s not been any attempt to do anything impressive ritual wise, so no one is going to get misrepresented or left out. There’s never been any attempt to really make us an expression of an “LGBT culture”, so we haven’t inherited any issues that might have been attached to that. We haven’t done a lot, but what we have done we have just tried to bring simple humanity to. We individually care about our paths, and we’d be pleased to share that with someone who shared corresponding interests, but we are all different too, so it doesn’t always happen. We aren’t “people like us” with a single shared culture, because we are too varied. But though I care about Witchcraft, I care more if you’re ok, in the context of meeting up. It’s not that I don’t care a lot about Witchcraft, or Paganism, but I basically deal with human beings, and human individuals. It’s not always easy, or even what I want to do, but it’s a much realer thing to me than group rituals, or why the term “queer” doesn’t represent me so well.
Maybe we should do more, but all in all I think we got through ok. Though magic means a lot of things to me, if it is spiritual then it needs to have something to do with the kind of people we are, the kind of people we manifest as. Sometimes the flash, and the theories, and the ritual are just the distractions that people need to cut out.
We are definitely the tortoise rather than the rainbow hare, and that’s cool.
9th December 2013: link to group blog added.