This is sort of related to earlier posts on the use of the word “queer” and sort of not. Mostly not. In fact, it’s actually more like the complete opposite. But since my “mind palace”* looks a bit more like the inside of Hogwarts, what with the moving staircases and magically appearing and disappearing rooms, it feels connected enough to me to say a bit about it. In fact, I think one of those mental staircases can even tie this back to Queer Health.
A bit of background is in order, because unless you happen to be plugged into the Polytheist Discourse corners of the internet (or know someone who is) this will probably all sound Greek to you. Well, more likely Old Norse. That will eventually make sense. There has been some gatekeeping going on among various sorts of Pagans, not so much about who does/doesn’t fit under the umbrella of their specific tradition (Wicca, Asatru, Hellenismos, Druidry, etc.) but about what does/doesn’t constitute polytheism. Is someone truly polytheist if they believe that all Gods and Goddesses are facets or reflections of a single Supreme Being? Or if they believe that Jupiter and Zeus are in fact the same Entity? Or if they worship Deities from more than one pantheon?
You will probably not be surprised that my answer is, “Yes, obviously, if that’s how they identify themselves.” Whether one’s worship of multiple Deities takes this form or that isn’t really the issue. Do they worship more than one Deity and call themselves a polytheist? Well, then, that’s what they are, because the word just indicates a worship of more than one God. I include the self-identification part because there’s a fair amount of Catholic-bashing that deals with veneration of saints as being a form of polytheism.
Many people, however, seem to feel the need to define their form of polytheism as the One True Way, and everyone else is Doing It Wrong. (This sort of thing never ends well. It also reminds me of recent trends in “Asexual Discourse” on Tumblr of the “these people who aren’t like me are not really queer” variety.) In response, a friend of mine started something called My Polytheism to encourage dialogue among diverse polytheists. It has caught on a bit. Sadly, this has caused some of the gatekeepers to up the ante.
Wondering where the failed slur bit comes in? Right about here. Now, I don’t think it was in direct response to a specific My Polytheism contribution, but somewhere along the way, the term “Rainbowtru” was invented as a way to describe Asatru (people who follow the Old Norse religion) who they see as being excessively inclusive.
Protip: if you are trying to disparage people for being excessively inclusive, using a symbol of inclusiveness in your attempted slur will probably backfire. This goes beyond reclaimed slurs, wherein the person it is used against may well respond, “You say that like it’s a bad thing.” Because there’s no history of abuse and pain behind it, you instead get responses along the lines of, “Wait, that’s a thing? Where do I sign up?” Also banners.
Where this ties in to Queer Health is the way this sort of gatekeeping (also called “hatekeeping”) is sometimes done within the LGBTQIA community, alienating people from what should be a support network. Bisexuals aren’t queer enough unless they’re actually with a partner of the same sex right now (in which case they’re really just half-closeted), so they shouldn’t attend Pride events or make use of resources for the LGBTQIA community. Asexuals aren’t queer enough (unless they’re homoromantic maybe?) so … same. We have little in the way of data on asexual health, but we already know that people who end up filed as bisexual in studies (most likely including pansexuals and other non-monosexuals) tend to have worse health outcomes than their homosexual peers as well as their heterosexual peers. This is believed to be because of this added marginalization not only from the dominant society but also from the LGBTQIA community.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could avoid doing that same thing in interfaith Pagan dialogue? Because while having a spiritual practice of some kind is usually shown to have protective health effects, being a member of a minority religion brings its own stressors. If other members of somewhat-similar-or-related faiths are making noise about how you’re not really one of “their kind” and so on, this is likely to add even more stress, regardless of whether the message is internalized or not. Because one reason polytheists and other Pagans reach out to one another on the ‘net is because it is extremely hard to find others of like mind unless you are in a big city with enough of a population to hit critical mass.
One of the best ways to combat this, I find, is exactly the approach taken in response to the attempt to coin “Rainbowtru” as a slur: turn it around. Ignore the intended negativity, and find a way to turn it into something positive. That’s not always possible, and I don’t pretend otherwise, but if you can do it, there’s a good chance it’ll up your resilience (Gray, Mendelsohn, & Omoto, 2015), which tends to mean better health.
Gray, N. N., Mendelsohn, D. M., & Omoto, A. M. (2015). Community connectedness, challenges, and resilience among gay Latino immigrants. American Journal of Community Psychology, 55(1-2), 202-214. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10464-014-9697-4
*I may possibly have watched the Hillywood Sherlock Parody a few more times than is healthy, hence the phrase “mind palace” being at the tip of my … mind.