Monday, September 10, 2018

#WitchKitChallenge



Recently, witch kits have seen a revival (err.. revile?...pardon the pun) in and out of the Pagan community. In a recent blog, and through many discussions with you all on social media, I’ve heard that many of you don’t necessarily mind the idea of an all in one kit. But not every kit has what you want, and even if it has all the “stuff” it might not look like something you’d want to prominently display. And, even if all that is true, it still might not be something you can afford or access. Thus, I am giving birth to a new project I like to call the...

#WitchKitChallenge

The goal of the challenge is to take a budget that more or less most people can afford - if not all at once, realistically over a short period of time - and shop only at stores that most people can access to see if you can build a solid “kit” of everything the starter Pagan might want/need to get their witching off right. 

The rules

  • Budget - no more than $50 pre-tax
  • Must get everything on the list, or have a reasonable substitution that makes sense for your practice (but you cannot get fewer items...no saying 1 item does 3 things)
  • You can only shop at 1 of the approved chain stores, or a similar chain establishment that most people have access to (you cannot go to, say, 3 different chain stores to get everything)
  • You don’t have to purchase everything, but you need to record the pre-tax prices for all items and take a picture or video of your “kit”. 
  • No seasonal items! For this challenge, you must resist the urge to go spelunking in the Halloween decor. 
  • Post it to social media using the hashtag #WitchKitChallenge
  • Challenge 3 people to do the same

The List

  • 4 Elemental Representations
  • 1+ Representations of Spirit/Deity
  • 1 Knife or Carving Implement
  • 1 Offering Dish
  • 1 Blank Book
  • Something to do (this piece is open ended to allow for variety... You could choose a divinatory tool such as a scrying mirror, some dice, a deck of cards. The choice is yours, but it should be something you can do magically at your witchy workspace.)
  • Bonus Points if you can also squeeze in a place to put your kit - a shelf or cabinet or something - but it’s by no means required (and would be quite difficult at most of the stores on the list, but you get bragging rights if you can fit it in)

The Stores

Remember, each “kit” can only be comprised of items from one of these stores. No combining items from different stores.
  • WalMart
  • Target
  • Goodwill
  • Dollar Tree
  • Dollar General
  • Home Depot
  • Lowe’s 
  • HomeGoods
  • Ross
  • Michael’s
  • TJ Maxx

My First Challenge



For my first challenge, I went to Target. Because...of course I did. I saw my first $20 eaten up pretty quickly with a beautiful metal charger and a complimentary blank book. But, like...they were really pretty and I became convinced my kit would simply be incomplete without both of them. 

My items were:
  • Blue drinking glass for Water - $3.99
  • Metal charger/offering plate - $9.99
  • Playing cards for divination - $2.99
  • 2 taper candlesticks - $1.99/ea
  • Paring knife - $3.99
  • 2 Taper candles (black) for spirit - $3.99
  • Blank book - $9.99
  • Salt for earth - $2.09
  • Dish for salt - $1.99
  • Bubble wand for air - $.98
  • White candle for fire - $4.19
  • Total pre-tax cost of my kit - $48.17
(Oops! Here’s the candle...)


I wanted a few “nicer” things like Himalayan pink salt, but that was $6, and have I mentioned how much I wanted that charger in my kit instead? I had also originally selected a much nicer knife, but that was $7.99...and I was already at the limit. 

Some limitations were trying to find a suitable representation of air. I also wanted an actual living plant as my earth element, but this Target didn’t have anything like a succulent or air plant or something beyond the fake, plastic potted decor. I fully realize that if I’d chosen a cheaper book I’d have had room for nicer things, possibly even a shelf, but I found something I liked...and that’s kind of the point of the challenge. To surprise yourself. 

I plan on repeating the challenge at some of the other stores in the coming weeks. It’ll be interesting 

The Gauntlet

I challenge Velma Nightshade, Cory Hutcheson, and Chris Orapello! 

And, of course, if anyone else wants to play along, feel free to post your photos using the hashtag #WitchKitChallenge! I’ll be reposting all of the ones I can see. (So make your posts public! Or, better yet, tag me!)

tl;dr 

Here’s a video:



Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Sephora’s Witch Kit and Pagan Gatekeeping

I remember when my Paganism took the form of a single, small shelf facing the back wall on the floor of Waldenbooks in the mall and a deck of playing cards. I remember when my Paganism looked like hearing Piper on Charmed use the word “sabbat” instead of “holiday”. I remember when my Paganism was falling in love with Hogwarts and Narnia and Greek mythology. I remember when my Paganism was a generic, playing card size deck of tarot cards I bought from a store that mostly rented movies and sold used CDs, and a  book by a guy named Scott Cunningham borrowed from the girl I sat next to in band. And, for some kid in 2018, their Paganism might just begin at Sephora.

If you’re a Witch or a Pagan or any other such magical person, and you have access to social media, you will have undoubtedly seen the absolute tizzy our online community has worked itself into over this:


What’s in the box?


It’s called “Starter Witch Kit”, and it’s made by a fragrance company called Pinrose and will be sold at makeup giant Sephora in the coming days. It retails for $42. It has 9 different fragrances, a tarot deck, a bundle of white sage, and a tumbled rose quartz. As “witch kits” go, it’s not the worst I’ve seen. It’s a little less “Wicca Flavored Witchcraft” and more “I Like to Look at Pictures of Burning Man on Instagram”. The character...let’s assume she’s the High Priestess?...on the Tarot deck appears to be a big fan of Prince (we all caught that that is definitely his unpronounceable symbol, right?). It’s pastel, which is apparently enough for Pagans around the interwebs to write it off as puerile. 

But let’s look at it for what it is. From the blogs and podcasts I’ve listened to over the years, I’ve been led to believe that practically any tarot deck will work with the right training and intuition. I remember once that someone recommended cutting out labels for cleaning products and using them as oracle cards - Joy, Gain, and Tide all seem pretty evocative. So...the New Age festival goer on the deck doesn’t bother me. There are nine fragrances that correspond with desired effects. I am appearing at Chicago Pagan Pride this upcoming Sunday, and, unless this year is wildly different from every other year, I fully expect to see scents and oils that make the same claim from at least a dozen different booths. Go to Etsy and witches around the world sell balms and ointments and soaps and perfumes and oils and all sorts of other smell good stuff that all claim to have magical properties. The tumbled stone and white sage? I have those. You have those. We all have those. 

So what are we mad about? 

That it’s being sold at a makeup store? That it’s pink? That nobody asked you if you specifically wanted this? That it’s a cheap imitation of what “Real Witchraft” is? That last bit seems to be the consensus

OMGs It’s Fake & Plastic & a Kit


I’m also old enough to know that this isn’t the first witch kit. In fact, many - M A N Y - of the people decrying this kit from Sephora have a very soft spot for this:



This is (err...was) the Teen Witch Kit created by pagan author Silver Ravenwolf and sold by Llewellyn publishers. You can still buy one on Amazon for ... around $42. It has the following product description:


It had some plastic/pewter coin looking things - I’m still not really sure what those were - a teeny little bell that looked like it came from a cat collar, a polyester shoe string “cord”, and you can even use the cardboard box for an altar! Sure, the whole exterior wasn’t pastel, but the title was pink, and it prominently features the Wiccan Power Rangers:


AKA the super edgy Wiccan teens from the last time we tried to market witchcraft to teenagers. 

Seriously, search the term “witch kit” in almost any area of the internet where you can buy things. Here’s a quick selection from Etsy.

Witch kits are not new. It’s not new to sell them at big box retailers, especially during Halloween season. Similar items have been sold over the years at Barnes & Noble, Target, and more. Upscale retailers in the last year have been seen selling crystal kits and other New Age/magical paraphernalia. Stop acting like this is new. 

Basic White Girl Sage




I’ve seen arguments that the Sephora kit is promoting the over harvesting of white sage in order to satiate white girls’ desire to be rid of bad vibes while sipping pumpkin spice lattes and binging reruns of Gilmore Girls in between sets at Coachella. (Otherwise known on the Pagan interwebs as the “ugh...basic white girls” argument...by the same crowd that revere Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Charmed as holy, sacrosanct, liturgical television viewing.) There is this argument running around Pagan internet circles that white sage - salvia apiana - is endangered. That we’ve overharvested it to the point of extinction. That Native Americans don’t have enough. If this is true, it is news to the governmental agencies that track things like whether plant species are “threatened” or “endangered”. It isn’t categorized as such by the USDA or by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. I’m not saying it isn’t happening, but I’m saying that I cannot find supporting evidence for its occurrence. 

However, there is a good argument that this highlights cultural appropriation of Native American spiritual practices. White sage has become a pretty integral part of most Pagans’ practice - mine included - while ignoring the history and culture behind its use. It is a good reminder that modern Pagans tend to select bits and pieces of other, older cultures and shove them together on the same altar. This can be both a beautiful example of the belief that many have that all the gods are merely different faces of the divine, and a shocking example of privilege. 

We should embrace opportunities to seek out other ways of performing spiritual cleansing. And, should we use a method found from a culture, especially a living culture, we should do more than lip service to honor the people who have kept the method alive and the culture from which the practice comes. It might also do us some good to ask, Should I really be using this? 

I’m a white guy. Using a spiritual remedy from Native American culture is an example of white privilege. I can claim that lots of other people do it. I can claim I mean no harm. I can claim that I use it alongside other methods of cleansing such as salt and blessed water and incense and certain woods and all sorts of other things. And...I suppose I do all those things. But, it doesn’t mean that I should get to absolve myself of at the bare minimum understanding where the practice of burning white sage came from and honoring its history. Or, perhaps better yet, find other methods that I can enjoy. The history of white people taking from indigenous people and making excuses for why they should get to is long, bloody, and real. 

All that said, the witch kit sold at Sephora is not the progenitor of this issue, nor should it be a whipping boy for this particular argument. The wider Pagan community, and the even wider...everyone else, are guilty of the same appropriation. Whole Foods has been selling white sage for years, and you’d practically have to actively avoid it at any shop selling wellness products. 

But this is OUR thing

This is the crux of the issue, isn’t it?

Pagans, witches, Wiccans, Reconstructionists of all types, and magical people here, there, and yonder absolutely despise the idea of this thing that we do becoming mainstream or welcoming in people that don’t fit with our collective idea of What Makes a Witch. This is gatekeeping at its finest. I have been sent the story about the Sephora Witch Kit a dozen times a day at least every single day since this story broke from people expecting me to be outraged about all the “blonde Becky’s” that will think they’re doing witchcraft.

I’m not outraged. I’m not upset. I’m not flummoxed. I’m not even miffed. I’m glad there’s magic being practiced out in the world, and I don’t really care very much if it looks like the magic that I practice. I’m quite positive that if you were to look at the altars and humdrum witchy practices of a host of different Pagans, you’d get a host of different ways of practicing magic and worshipping the gods of old. 

There are people I greatly respect that spend their time dissolving roadkill in various chemicals in order to harvest the bones for their ritual use. There are people I greatly respect that knit spells into gifts for their loved ones using wool they sourced and dyed themselves. There are people I greatly respect that keep a poisoners garden filled with herbs and plants whose usage has been carefully researched and honed with years of practice. There are people I greatly respect who work with ancestors and spirits and keep items from their beloved dead in a prominent place of importance in their home or on their person. 

There are people I greatly respect that never miss a full moon, that put out amazing spreads for every holy day, and have handwritten books of shadows that would make the grimoire from Practical Magic look like a bargain bin Halloween prop. 

There are also people I greatly respect whose Paganism looks like blessing their mint tea with healing energy before giving it to their child. There are also people I greatly respect whose Paganism looks like a small jar of tumbled stones and a drawer full of shirts they wear every October. There are also people I greatly respect whose witchcraft looks like less than half a dozen rituals throughout the year and cursing your iPhone as you scroll through Facebook and realize that you missed Mabon...again. There are also people I greatly respect whose spells look like dancing or scented candles or wearing specific colors or keeping a dream journal. 

Some of my very favorite books of spells came from Target. They weren’t exclusive to Target, but that’s where I found them. As a teenager. Who, coincidentally, worked for Target in the early 2000s when Charmed and Sabrina were our witches on TV. Fast forward to 2018 and Charmed and Sabrina are...still witches on TV. Along with a host of other witches. 

I’ll be honest, the hypocrisy of the Pagan community makes me laugh. A lot. Actual, real, genuine belly laughs. We are perfectly ok incorporating Disney magic into our practice as well as other pop culture figures and spells. We share memes that say that the best way of dealing with an unruly spirit is to tell it to Get the fuck out of the house, Arthur. We laugh. We nod in agreement. We hit share. We all have fond memories of discovering witchcraft for the first time in a bookstore or a tv show or a textbook or a friend and realizing...magic is real and I can do it?!

But we do not extend the same courtesy to the new, especially to the new that doesn’t look like the old. 

I’ll say it loud for the people in the back:

THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY TO BE A WITCH.

And the people feeling very superior about the fact that their witchcraft wasn’t bough at Sephora need a reality check. So what if it’s a fashion statement? Tess Whitehurst wrote a whole book about magical fashion statements. So what if a girl named “Becky” picks it up? Rebecca Nurse was a real life woman killed in Salem as a witch. Plenty of Becky’s and Rebecca’s and all other iterations of that name have been and continue to be witches. Who cares if they’re blonde? I’m blonde. Samantha on Bewitched was blonde. 

Buy Local


One last thing. There’s the argument that buying these witch kits is somehow taking away from business that could be going towards local pagan owned businesses. None of you folks that are complaining about that honestly think that the people that will pick up this witch kit are buying it in lieu of buying a kit from “real witches” at real Pagan shop, do you? Was your first contact with witchcraft at a Pagan shop? Or was it the New Age section of Barnes & Noble. Maybe next Halloween, the boys and girls who picked up this kit will be knocking down their local Pagan shop to dig a little deeper. Or maybe not. But come on... Be realistic. 

And buying an item from your local witchy shop doesn’t necessarily mean you’re contributing to some local, Pagan artisan’s tireless efforts to sell their handcrafted Pagan goodies. The majority of metaphysical shops sell statuary from Sacred Source, herbs from Azure Green, Books from Llewellyn and Weiser, and a very small number of other suppliers that deal in major international wholesaling of the spiritual. You could very likely buy what you need to buy online, which, for many, is a handy option as they don’t live near a witchy store...or at least one worth their blessing salt. 

Pagan Enough


I think it’s time to revive Project Pagan Enough. 

I think it’s time we declare who we are, what we believe, how we found our path, and, sure, where we get our witchy stuff from. 

I’ll start. 

I’m Fire Lyte. I’ve been on the path for over half my life. My altar came from Pier 1. My current Book of Shadows came from Lapulia studios. My previous Book of Shadows was a three ring binder I covered in fabric. My first was a little $5 journal I bought at my school’s book fair. My stones came from rock shows, the side of the road, witchy shops, a museum, and friends from around the world. I take inspiration from pop culture, mythology, traditional practices, podcasts, and blogs. Books on my witchy shelf are everything from Pagan owned and published instructionals to various encyclopedias on mythology to poetry to historical collections of folklore. I’m good to remember 8 holidays a year, because I might be lucky if I celebrate 3. My full moon rituals might, at best, be raising a glass of wine at the end of the day to the moon and taking half a second to thank the gods that I still breathe. I don’t for a second take myself or my practice too seriously. 

And, I’m Pagan enough. 

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Episode 121: Inciting The Lost Queen's Riot (with Signe Pike)



Signe Pike returns to Inciting A Riot to talk about her upcoming debut novel The Lost Queen, on sale September 4, 2018 from Touchstone Books. 

Signe discusses what she's been up to in the 8 years since publishing Faery Tale and how she brought the as-yet-untold story of a queen lost to time to life. If you enjoy being swept up in historical fantasies like Outlander or The Mists of Avalon, you'll want to run straight to your nearest bookstore to pick up The Lost Queen. 

Support Pagan media! Consider giving a small donation to Patreon.com/IncitingProjects! You’ll get cool rewards like unedited video and audio podcasts from Inciting A Riot and Inciting A BrewHaHa, as well as bonus extras not published anywhere else, plus deals and coupons! Patrons are charged on a per-creation basis, so you only pay for the content you want!

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Blog: IncitingARiot.com
FireLyte@IncitingARiot.com
@IncitingARiot on Twitter
Facebook.com/IncitingARiotPodcast
Subscribe/Rate/Comment on iTunes: http://bit.ly/iTunesRiot

Monday, August 27, 2018

Episode 120: Inciting A Crystal Riot





Episode 120 of Inciting A Riot: the Podcast sees the return of Pagan geophysicist and podcaster Kathleen Borealis of Borealis Meditation! 

We talk about the history of crystals in magical use, how to find crystals on a budget, and what two stones you must have in your witchy kit (believe me, you won't guess what they are). 

You can find Kathleen on her podcast Borealis Meditation, or by searching out @KatBorealis on Twitter!

Support Pagan media! Consider giving a small donation to Patreon.com/IncitingProjects! You’ll get cool rewards like unedited video and audio podcasts from Inciting A Riot and Inciting A BrewHaHa, as well as bonus extras not published anywhere else, plus deals and coupons! Patrons are charged on a per-creation basis, so you only pay for the content you want!

Love and Lyte, 

Fire Lyte

Blog: IncitingARiot.com
FireLyte@IncitingARiot.com
@IncitingARiot on Twitter
Facebook.com/IncitingARiotPodcast
Subscribe/Rate/Comment on iTunes: http://bit.ly/iTunesRiot

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Episode 119: Inciting Morgan Daimler's Riot

Episode 119 of Inciting a Riot: the Podcast finds us Inciting Morgan Daimler's Riot! Morgan is an expert on Irish Myth and Fairy Folklore. We discuss how to start researching Irish Myth, what's up with the Fairy Queens, and whether I'm a terrible uncle for inviting the fae to live with my 3 year old niece. 
Quick Note: I must apologize for the audio quality in this episode. Apparently, Skype recently had an update and I didn't realize it mucked about with the audio settings. As such...well...you'll hear it. It's not great. But Morgan is delightful, and no amount of technical interference could dull her shine! (This is what I get for recording during all of the retrogrades.)
To contact Morgan:
Twitter - @MorganDaimler
Facebook.com/MorganDaimler
lairbhan.blogspot.com
Or search for her books on Amazon!
Support Pagan media! Consider giving a small donation to Patreon.com/IncitingProjects! You’ll get cool rewards like unedited video and audio podcasts from Inciting A Riot and Inciting A BrewHaHa, as well as bonus extras not published anywhere else, plus deals and coupons! Patrons are charged on a per-creation basis, so you only pay for the content you want!
Love and Lyte,
Fire Lyte
Blog: IncitingARiot.com
FireLyte@IncitingARiot.com
@IncitingARiot on Twitter
Facebook.com/IncitingARiotPodcast
Subscribe/Rate/Comment on iTunes: http://bit.ly/iTunesRiot

Monday, July 30, 2018

Episode 118: Inciting Autumn’s Riot


Episode 118 of Inciting A Riot: the Podcast is discussion with blogger and (soon to be) podcaster Autumn Lily Harari. She currently lives in Israel not too far from the Palestinian border. With all that has gone on in that area in the last several months, I wanted to discuss what it's like to live and raise a family in an area that most of us only think about in terms of war and terrorism. 

Find more from Autumn at yourmothersblog.com.

Support Pagan media! Consider giving a small donation to Patreon.com/IncitingProjects! You’ll get cool rewards like unedited video and audio podcasts from Inciting A Riot and Inciting A BrewHaHa, as well as bonus extras not published anywhere else, plus deals and coupons! Patrons are charged on a per-creation basis, so you only pay for the content you want!


Love and Lyte,


Fire Lyte


Blog: IncitingARiot.com

FireLyte@IncitingARiot.com

@IncitingARiot on Twitter

Facebook.com/IncitingARiotPodcast

Subscribe/Rate/Comment on iTunes: http://bit.ly/iTunesRiot



Monday, July 16, 2018

Pagan authors and whatever the opposite of reverence is



Way back in the long, long ago when I was a baby Pagan blogger, I wrote what I thought was a scathing criticism of traditional Paganism. That’s not correct. I wrote what I thought were several scathing criticisms of traditional Paganism, and I made quite the name for myself in our community as both a herald of critical thought and an unenlightened noob. I’ve had the better part of 10 years to examine some of those earlier positions, and in light of this article on Patheos I wanted to take another look at the perennial beat down of Pagan wayfinders. 

The article in question, by Patheos blogger Astrea, is, itself, an argument against the notion that walking a non-traditional Pagan path is somehow experiencing a lesser version of Paganism. While this school of thought was quite prevalent when I began blogging nearly a decade ago, there are enough podcasts and blogs and books and YouTube channels that let the average Pagan know there are as many ways of experiencing Paganism as there are Pagans. Though, to be fair to the author, I’m sure it was quite uncomfortable to be told in a public setting that “non-traditional path witches are as dangerous as unschooled surgeons and doctors”.

I can absolutely get behind the idea that one’s spiritual path can be more informed by what feels right to you rather than a set of ruled and traditions handed down in formal training. That is to say, how many people walk a Pagan path now because their spiritual upbringing didn’t jive with some inner voice that spoke of a different kind of truth? How many of us read the names of old gods in a textbooks and felt a tug to learn more? How many of us walked by a stream or saw a sunset or had a vivid dream wherein each experience whispered of a different way of experiencing the divine?

However, I believe there is quite a lot of value in at least understanding where your path comes from - traditional or otherwise - and how our community came to exist. We’re a tiny but mighty community. As I’ve said before, we represent less than half a percent of the population, yet we have an entire aisle at the bookstore. How many other tiny faiths can say the same? (I’m looking at you, Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The sheer fact that nobody has put out a CotFSM Italian cookbook is some kind of crime and you will not convince me otherwise.)

There is value in understanding who walked the path before you so that, at the very least, you know why you disagree with their way of doing things. I’ll also admit to not reading as much of the work of Gardner or Sanders or Buckland or Crowley as I probably should have over the years, but I have read their work and researched their respective histories. 

Researching our collective Pagan history does more than provide a starting point for Pagan education - whatever version of “traditional” you decide. It helps you to be a strong advocate for yourself, your UPG  and it may very well help you find even more ways of experiencing the divine than mere intuition alone. 

For example: leaving Christianity meant leaving behind a lot of the holy days throughout the year that helped create and support community - and were a great excuse for a pot luck. Luckily, Paganism had my back with the Wicca-heavy Wheel of the Year. The Wheel is a modern invention of mid-20th century British Wiccans that combined multiple celebrations from multiple sources into one sweet excuse to have a party every 6 weeks. Personally, it’s a fine reminder to check in and examine how life has changed just as the seasons have changed, and honor the highs and lows respectively. It’s also a nice entryway to see all the ways in which we’ve begged, borrowed, stolen, and straight up created traditions from whole cloth. (*cough* Mabon *cough*) 

Digging into the background of Samhain or Lughnasadh is a great way to connect with the evolution of modern Paganism, but moreso a great way to start exploring ancient cultures. We should embrace research, especially the research that upsets or challenges us. From finding your own Pagan path to simply meeting and getting to know other Pagans, research is a way to speak a common language. It’s also a great way to know when you’re being straight up lied to. 

The Burning Times, human sacrifice, preparations for speaking with the dead, who and what the Devil is inside our community, whether Christianity is all that bad. These are all things that come up in discussion with other Pagans (and non-Pagans who find out you’re Pagan), and a lack of research leaves you ill-prepared for the discussion and open to being misled or poised to misinform others. (Seriously, how can you discuss the Satanic Panic without Crowley?)

I understand that there is a divide between those that practice formalized, traditional paths and those that do their own thing - I’m part of the latter group. But, in the decade that I’ve been in the Pagan blogosphere I’ve seen that divide soften into less of an “Us vs Them” mentality and more of a spectrum. The article above seems to conflate “traditional” Pagan spirituality with researching Pagan history, and they don’t have to be the same thing. From her article:


If merely accessing information leaves you feeling as though a spirit of some kind is looming over you and that you must attack it with your energy powers, I don’t quite know how to comfort you. You can think Crowley was a nut job, a dilettante that feigned to take himself more seriously than he actually did, or a font of knowledge, but you should probably have a passing understanding of who he is and how he - for good and for ill - furthered the visibility of modern Paganism. The same goes for the rest of our forebears. If not for Gardner’s eccentricity, would we have been gifted the liturgy of Doreen Valiente? Her words in the Charge of the Goddess and the Wiccan Rede and more have gone on to inspire generations of spiritual seekers. 

Research gives us a baseline of conversation and a springboard from which to dive into our own paths. It helps to eschew ideas you dislike and embrace new ways of understanding the divine. We do not have to revere our forebears in order to have knowledge of them, why they did what they did, and how they came to their own conclusions. We can have...whatever the opposite of reverence is for them. They took what they liked and left the rest, which is pretty much the very definition of non-traditional practice. 

We should neither fear the act of research, nor should we require it take a specific tract, but we should encourage and delight in it at every turn. 

Yes, even the stuff that makes us uncomfortable, uneasy, or undertheimpressionwe’rebeingwatchedfrombehindandneedtoblastitwithourenergypowers. 

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Episode 117: Inciting A Packed Up Riot

Episode 117 of Inciting A Riot: the Podcast finds us discussing what it feels like to pack up your Paganism. What kind of closets do you find yourself in, and who incites you to retreat to those closets? How important are these pieces of yourself that you keep from the eyes of others?
This episode is a departure from the traditional Riot format. My hope is that, without the strict requirements of segments, I'll be able to take deeper dives into whatever topic inspires me at the time. This will, hopefully, lead to more frequent, more passionate episodes. I've often found that I don't put out an episode, because I didn't have enough content to fill out all the other segments. This way I'm hoping to give myself permission to provide you stories and topics that are interesting, timely, and important. 
Support Pagan media! Consider giving a small donation to Patreon.com/IncitingProjects! You’ll get cool rewards like unedited video and audio podcasts from Inciting A Riot and Inciting A BrewHaHa, as well as bonus extras not published anywhere else, plus deals and coupons! Patrons are charged on a per-creation basis, so you only pay for the content you want!
Love and Lyte,
Fire Lyte
Blog: IncitingARiot.com
FireLyte@IncitingARiot.com
@IncitingARiot on Twitter
Facebook.com/IncitingARiotPodcast
Subscribe/Rate/Comment on iTunes: http://bit.ly/iTunesRiot

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Supreme Court, Masterpiece Cakeshop, and what constitutes a “narrow” ruling.



This morning your homophobic aunt gleefully posted on Facebook the fact that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of bigot bakery Masterpiece Cakeshop. They’re the folks you’ve heard about who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, because baking cakes makes you tacitly complicit in gay butt sex and Jesus doesn’t like that. You may have also heard that this was a “narrow” decision in favor of the bigoted bakers, but then wondered how a 7-2 Supreme Court ruling could be considered “narrow”. Allow me to provide some clarification as to what happened and why nobody is really sure how happy and/or upset to be about it. 

The case itself has been going on so long that, like the McDonald’s hot coffee case of yesteryear, it’s become a bumper sticker court case. Everyone knows about the gay folks that were turned away from a baker and sued for discriminatory practices, and that’s probably all you know about it. Without giving you the 6 year history of this very complicated court case, I’ll instead let you know that the legal merit of it boiled down to Colorado’s Public Accomodations law. This law prohibits businesses that are open to the public from discrimating against customers based on their race, religion, or sexual orientation. The couple originally won their lawsuit, but it was appealed. The state upheld the lower court’s ruling, so it was appealed again. SCOTUS, however, did not agree with the lower court ruling, and that’s why we’re here today. 

The court ruled by a 7-2 majority that the ruling of the lower Colorodo Civil Rights Commission be overturned. The majority opinion, however, was not regarding whether the case had legal merit, but whether the defendant’s had been treated with legal neutrality. The Supreme Court ruled that the lower courts did not apply a necessary level of  religious neutrality which is required to protect the defendant’s Free Exercise rights. 

From the opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy:




Most believe that the wording of this ruling is not going to set any legal precedents. The ruling, according to Kennedy, is regarding whether the proper procedure was followed, not whether the defendants had the legal merit to discriminate against LGBTQ people while operating a public business. 

Some clarity from NPR’s Nina Totenberg:



The court ruling the way it did leaves the door open for a future lawsuit to settle whether LGBTQ people can be discriminated against based on a business owner’s sincerely held religious beliefs. 

The “narrow” in this instance has nothing to do with the vote count, but, rather, the intended legal scope of the ruling.

At least on paper. I humbly disagree. 

Socially, your homophobic aunt, and millions of other people like her, will take this as a dog whistle that the Supreme Court of the United States has given endorsement of the idea that Christianity is an oppressed religion in a country where around 7 out of 10 of its citizens claim adherence. Defenders of right wing policies and Christian extremists will see this as a moral victory and disregard the fact that it was over procedure and not legal merit. 

As is evidenced, of course, by the offspring of our...ahem...President and other conservative politicians:






So, before folks in the middle or on the left soothe themselves with the balm that this is not a victory on merit but on procedure, take a second to see how the other side views this and the messaging they’re using. 

The Right believes their majority is under siege from a callous, selfish, leftist movement that seeks to hurt all the good, heterosexual Christians. They see today’s ruling as a major win. This fight is far from over. Bet your bottom dollar that far more “No Fags Allowed” signs will be going up around the country. 

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Special: When you hate the gays, but love your gay son.



A couple of months ago, one of my mother’s students came out to her. The young man had seen pictures of the two of us on social media, realized I was gay, and thought This woman still talks to her son; she must be an ally! He asked her to talk to his parents, who were having a less than stellar time with the revelation - being, themselves, good, staunch Christian conservatives of the deep East Texas variety. She declined to speak to his parents, and told him that she was sure his parents would find a way to continue to love him. 

See, here’s the thing. 

My parents love me. I do not for a second doubt that. But (of course there’s a ‘but’) they don’t love all parts of me. I’m sure this isn’t relegated to just my parents or just the situation of having a gay son. My folks don’t love LGBTQ people. Like many Christian conservatives, they practice the notion of hating the sin and loving the sinner. 

I’ve never understood this phrase. I think it evolved from the Biblical notion (the book of Matthew, specifically) of loving your enemies and praying for those that persecute you. It’s the idea that we are all people, and though some of us do terrible things we are still worthy of redemption and “god’s love”. To apply this idea to an intrinsic fact about someone’s being, however, makes no sense to my soul. I never chose to be gay. Folks don’t choose their gender. People don’t choose their race (unless you’re Rachel Dolezal?). Loving the sinner and hating the sin works for murderers, maybe. Thieves, cheats, con artists, rapists, Harvey Weinstein...maybe there are those who find a way to love the person separate from their transgression. I’ve never understood how that applies to compartmentalizing your love for your LGBTQ child. 

The (now-cancelled) Roseanne reboot was a perfect TV example of The Special. Roseanne, the character and the person, has become a staunch Trump-supporting conservative of the conspiracy theory slinging variety. The character voted for Trump against her own self-interests, but, more than that, against the interests of her grandchildren. Roseanne’s grandchildren are biracial and ostensibly queer, respectively, and she seems to dote on them unconditionally. It’s interesting to try to square the idea that Gramma Rosie could tell you how much she loves you to the moon and back, would fight armies for you, would go to your school and tell all the kids there to stop picking on you just because you like to wear sequin skirts and you identify as male...with the fact that she very much supports an administration who seeks at every turn to dehumanize marginalized folks who are just like you. 

We all have a Gramma Rosie in our life. A racist aunt who hugs you and loves you and welcome your Mexican boyfriend to the family cookout...and then posts a Build the Wall meme on Facebook. A father who doesn’t mind the fact that his teenage son will have sex with practically anything wearing a skirt, but when it’s a person of color all of a sudden here come the Bible verses about not mixing with other tribes. 

Being The Special means that people love a specific part of you - most likely the part they’re related to or sit next to in the office breakoom - and set about forgetting that all those other parts of you - being LGBTQ, your religion, your skin - are also equally you. I can no more remove my sexuality than I can my genetic link to my family, and to love only one part of that means that you do not love the entirety of my being. Yet, somehow, parents, friends, coworkers, and lovers all around the world think this is possible. 

So, what do you do in the face of that? I went through this crisis in 2016, after the fallout from the election created palpable schisms in my immediate family. My parents, who have a gay son and a gay Mexican immigrant son-in-law, happily and proudly voted for someone who thinks my love should be a crime and that my husband is some type of Super Rapist invented by Satan to steal all the White Jobs. (Side note: my husband does not want your job. Please. He works hard enough as it is and is very okay with you keeping your job. So, if white folks could quit leaving their jobs at our doorstep, that would be great. We’ve had to start paying extra to the recycling company for and extra bin to keep all the jobs.)

Do you write off family? What if it’s not family? What if it’s the polite coworker or the person that sits right next to you on the train every morning? What if it’s your boss? What if it’s your boyfriend? Your spouse? How many mixed race couples have I heard over the years have problems when it comes to loving the “partner” aspect of one another and somehow still slinging pejoratives about their beloved’s race or family or heritage? 

Calling out every single one of these people every single time they Other you will only lead to exhaustion...and very likely a much smaller family and social circle than you may wish. 

There are no easy, cut-and-dry answers here. We are simply coming to a place in society where social interconnectivity allows us to recognize that these behaviors are pervasive and pernicious and that you are not alone in your experience. What works for one may not work for you. The important thing is to recognize when you’ve become The Token or The Special to someone and decide how you will handle it. 

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Episode 116: Inciting A Special Riot


Episode 116 of Inciting a Riot: the Podcast finds us Inciting a Special Riot. I discuss the idea of the "Special Argument" and use the Pope and the Roseanne reboot as case studies.

A note: I've never had an episode of the podcast become dated less than 24 hours after I posted it to the feed until now. This episode was technically loaded to RSS feeds yesterday, and since then there have been developments regarding both Roseanne's reboot and the abortion news stories. Suffice to say, you should be subscribing to a podcast like Up First from NPR for daily news coverage and listen to a show like this for...well... I guess background noise while you're scrolling through Instagram?

News: 1500 missing children, Census, Yeshe Rabbit, Lupe Valdez, abortion, workers rights, environmental dna Loch Ness 

WOTD: Incel

Soc: The “special” argument and the Pope

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte




Support Pagan media! Consider giving a small, monthly donation to Patreon.com/IncitingProjects! You’ll get cool rewards like unedited video and audio podcasts from Inciting A Riot and Inciting A BrewHaHa, as well as bonus extras not published anywhere else, plus deals and coupons! 

Blog: IncitingARiot.com
FireLyte@IncitingARiot.com
@IncitingARiot on Twitter
Facebook.com/IncitingARiotPodcast

Subscribe/Rate/Comment on iTunes: http://bit.ly/iTunesRiot

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Episode 115: Inciting an Ostentatious Riot

Episode 115 of Inciting A Riot: the Podcast finds us exploring the topic of LGBTQ representation in media in two parts. The first is a case study on why allowing minorities to tell their own stories is important and necessary. 

We examine Black Panther, Harry Potter/JK Rowling, Will & Grace, Call Me By Your Name and other minority programming to get a sense of why it matters who tells whose story. 

Then, I'm so excited to introduce you all to Myxter Hyde. We have a free form discussion on the topic of representation and geekery and what it means to see yourself in media accurately. You can find him on any of his multiple podcasts or on Twitter @MyxterHyde



Red Wing: Redwingpodcast.com

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Support Pagan media! Consider giving a small, monthly donation to Patreon.com/IncitingProjects! You’ll get cool rewards like unedited video and audio podcasts from Inciting A Riot and Inciting A BrewHaHa, as well as bonus extras not published anywhere else, plus deals and coupons! 

Blog: IncitingARiot.com
FireLyte@IncitingARiot.com
@IncitingARiot on Twitter
Facebook.com/IncitingARiotPodcast
Subscribe/Rate/Comment on iTunes: http://bit.ly/iTunesRiot


Saturday, February 24, 2018

Ostentatious Identity: Owning LGBTQ Stories in Media

Last weekend Black Panther proved wrong almost everything everyone thought they knew about tentpole, blockbuster movies. Namely, that big budget films about black people don’t make any money. As of this writing the film has made over $500 million globally, and that’s before opening in China. This film will very likely make over a billion dollars, and may very well be a contender for the highest grossing film of all time. And...according to Hollywood wisdom, that’s not supposed to happen with black cinema. But, I think I know the answer. This is the product of what happens when a culture is finally allowed to tell their story, themselves, without interruption or silencing or equivocating. This is what happens when one’s identity is no longer stymied by polite society and allowed to be ostentatious. 

Now let’s talk about gay folks...

JK Rowling and the Unwritten Diversity

Travel back in time with me, if you will, to October 2007. The film for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was in fully media blitz, and JK Rowling made an announcement that shocked the world: Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore was gay. The admission came about when she was asked whether Dumbledore had ever fallen in love, and Rowling up and decided that not only had he, but he’d fallen for Gellert Grindelwald. She called it Dumbledore’s “great tragedy”.

It was the first of many post-publishing admissions Rowling gave over the years. Sometimes it would reveal the names of certain characters’ children or parents. Other times Rowling verged onto conveniently presenting diversity in the world of Hogwarts.

In 2015 when the stage production of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” cast a black actress as Hermione, Rowling decided that she’d never confirmed race in the books. Many saw this as a wonderful example of acceptance of racial diversity into the Harry Potter universe. 

In December 2014 she up and created a character from thin air in response to a fan tweet asking if there had been any Jewish students at Hogwarts. So, welcome to canon, Anthony Goldstein, a Ravenclaw. 

(Edit: An industrious fact checker has informed me that Anthony Goldstein does, in fact, exist in the books. He’s mentioned briefly a handful of times beginning in the fifth book. While his faith is apparently never mentioned, we are supposed to infer that he is from his last name. My apologies for the inaccuracy.)

However, a recent reveal by the director of the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them sequel has quite a lot of people wondering why we’ve been giving Rowling such credit for unwritten diversity. The new film is called The Crimes of Grindelwald (does that name sound familiar) and it stars heterosexual Jude Law as a young Dumbledore alongside an equally younger Grindelwald (played by noted abuser of women, Johnny Depp). When asked whether Albus Dumbledore, who was confirmed to be gay - specifically in love with the titular Grindelwald - would finally get to be portrayed as a gay man, heterosexual director David Yates stated “Not explicitly, but I think the fans are aware of that. He had a very intense relationship with Grindelwald when they were young men. They fell in love with each other’s ideas, and ideaology and each other.”

Fans were furious and upset and heartbroken that an assumed canonically gay hero of theirs would not finally be allowed an honest portrayal on screen. And...things started not feeling right about previous Big Reveals from Rowling.

Rowling, in one of her infamous Reveal Tweets, retorted that everyone needed to stop assuming what her long-term plans were for the character on screen. 

LGBTQ folks are used to this treatment historically. In numerous forms of media, LGBTQ identity was assumed, but never outwardly addressed. From teen comedies to adult dramas to romantic comedies to television series of all stripes, the “sassy friend” or “effeminate male” character has been ubiquitous code for “See, fellow homosexuals, you exist, too!” 

Xena gets a lot of credit for unwritten / assumed diversity from a fan base that, at the time, saw it as the first major lesbian relationship on a beloved television show by the main characters. Lucy Lawless said in interviews about her character’s relationship with Gabrielle that, in her eyes, they were “married”. But...again...this was never actually written or explicitly portrayed on the television show. However, the world is very different in 2018 than it was in the 90s and early 00s. Discrete hints at equality was all the LGBTQ community could expect. 

But, from Rowling, something feels different. Rowling feels like one of the good ones. She highlights wonderful causes, supports equality in all forms, and wrote an epic saga that helped a generation of children realize that it is perfectly okay to not take everything you’re told from those in power as sacrosanct - which has been a convenient lesson these past few years. As a kid who was the same age as Harry Potter when Harry Potter was first released, 11, I have adored this series with a fervor unshared by almost any other singular work of fiction. And, I am uneasy about a few recent occurrences with Rowling and the Potterverse.

She openly embraced Johnny Depp after being proven to be an abuser of women, and emphatically welcomed him into her world despite massive worldwide protest. This level of privilege and cognitive dissonance has been painful for many fans of the series, especially survivors of abuse and women of all ages. 

It needs to be explicitly stated: JK Rowling, for all the wonderful gift to the world that Harry Potter has been, did not write a Jewish character named Anthony Goldstein into any of the books of the series. She did not state that Hermione was black. And, no, she did not explicitly state in any way that Albus Dumbledore was gay anywhere in those books. And, when given the chance to portray him as such, chose not to. 2018 is different than 1995, when assumed queer characters like Xena could be acceptable forms of LGBTQ representation.

Will & Grace and the Sassy Gay Stereotype

It was the late 90s and Ellen Degeneres’ career was over after she came out and her show’s ratings plummeted. NBC was pitched a show by Max Mutchnik, a gay man, and David Kohan, a straight man. Their team has made several major television shows, and NBC was willing to take a chance on a pilot about a plucky redhead and her gay best friend. NBC was reticent about a gay comedy after Ellen’s show was canceled - her ratings were on track to make her show one of the biggest in television history - but were apparently convinced when Kohan and Mutchnik showed them the box office returns for the films The Birdcage and My Best Friend’s Wedding. 

I find it interesting that NBC was considering the oeuvre of The Birdcage and My Best Friend’s Wedding when greenlighting the series. In both films, the gay characters are portrayed as sexless beings. They’re there to build up the straight character or provide comic relief. While the Birdcage gives some emotional complexity to the characters, it is still a farcical ‘who’s coming to dinner’ with gay men as the novelty. 

Will & Grace’s first actor to be cast was Eric McCormack, the show’s Will Truman. McCormack is a heterosexual cisgender white man from Canada. I’m sure he had a lot in common with the struggle of being a gay man in America who was coming out during the AIDS crisis of the late 80s and early 90s. I’m not sure what, exactly, that could be, but I’m sure it’s there. 

The role of Will Truman almost went to the actor John Barrowman, later becoming quite famous in his own right for roles on Doctor Who, Torchwood, and the Arrowverse. According to Barrowman, he lost out on the role because the producers informed him he played the role “too straight.” Barrowman, who has been with his husband since they met in 1993, has been an enthusiastic, real life, practicing homosexual for 50 years.

Will & Grace did a lot for LGBTQ folks in media. Namely, we were on tv. Explicitly. It was the first prime time television show in the United States to have openly gay lead characters. Its success opened the door for shows like Queer as Folk, The L Word, The Real O’Neills, Queer Eye, Modern Family, and Glee. Had the show been a complete flop, one could only guess as to how long it would have taken another network to take a chance on LGBTQ characters in leading roles. 

In 2012, Vice President Joe Biden gave the series credit for educating the American people on gay issues and making strides towards equality. And, yes. America owes a lot to Will & Grace in the late 90s for inviting two young, attractive, fit, sassy gay white men into their homes for 10 years. 

However.

Retrospect has not been kind to Will & Grace. For a majority of the series, the characters of Will and Jack were gay in name only. The audience saw Jack as a combination of every effeminate gay stereotype, and Will was a strident emulation of the A gay - a class of mostly white gay men that have a lot of money, dress well, live extravagant lifestyles, and are here to share their existence with the women of the world. It wasn’t until the second season that the gay men...kissed any other gay men. However, the straight female lead spent almost the entire first season in a quagmire of dating woes. 

An LA Times article from 1998 has been passed around for this quote, “[Will] approaches asexual. His gayness appearing to exist solely as a device to give him the moral authority to repeatedly ridicule the mincing manner of his bandana-wearing homosexual friend, Jack, without being labeled homophobic.” Many feel that Jack, contrarily, existed to be laughed at rather than laughed with due to his portrayal as a melodramatic femme, which was depicted as something Will and the gang had to endure. Also, other than gay men - mostly white - the show had little in the way of L_BTQ representation. For a show set in New York that is supposed to include 4 people with lively social lives, not seeing other people from under the rainbow umbrella pop up is glaring.

The show has experienced a revival, and I have been a boisterous supporter of it. In its first episode, it becomes the show we always needed it to be. It is explicitly political, explicitly gay, and strips the main characters of their sexlessness. The men kiss men. The men have sex with men. The characters stand up to conversion therapy and Donald Trump and a host of other issues. But, it killed the only person of color on the show who could be considered a main character almost immediately, and, if anything, its presence on television reminds us that it is still about a woman and her GBF (Gay Best Friend), which is a trope gay men of all kinds have been trying to shirk for decades. 

Therein lies my issue with Will & Grace and other shows like it. It is about more than needing to be portrayed on screen. It is about needing to be portrayed on screen as a human being. Humans have sex. They stink. They make bad decisions. They are the centers of their own universe. They do not exist solely to be someone else’s friend. Just like black women are not here to be the comic relief for white people, gay men do not exist to tell women how to style their hair or select an outfit. Your hair stylist goes home and has a robust life of his own, complete with nights in bed with another man and his man penis. 

Presenting LGBTQ characters as anything other than sexless stereotypes cannot be accomplished successfully until LGBTQ people are in charge of their own stories. In a quartet of leading actors, Will & Grace has one gay actor. The other three are straight. Sure, they’re wonderful allies, but they’re straight. And the lead male was chosen over a gay actor because of the affectations he put into the role to make him acceptably gay to the producers. He’s a straight man’s version of what a gay man is. 

Black Panther and the Black Lens

Coming back to Black Panther. Critics and audiences have hailed it as being an iconic look at Afrofuturism, at what a black society might look like had it not been infiltrated by white people who wanted their resources and bodies. It is lauded for having complex, powerful women whose arcs are not dependent upon a man’s. It tells a story about blackness and race in America and pride in one’s identity that can only be told by the people who have experienced that racism, experienced being told by society not to be proud of their skin and features and heritage. 

Lupita Nyong’o explained in an interview on the Daily Show how even the hair styling choices were a calculated attempt to showcase what it might look like if black people had not been told by colonizing white people that their kinks and texture were bad, that if they wanted to be accepted they would need chemicals and weaves and wigs. Of the named characters in the film, there are 2 white actors, and they are secondary to the infinitely more complex black characters, which is exactly how it should be in a film about a black superhero saving his people and kingdom from a usurper. 

The film is written by black screenwriters Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole. It is directed by black director Ryan Coogler. Many of its main cast is African, which is great when the characters happen to also be African. Its costume designer is a black woman who spent an immense amount of time researching African culture. And it is through this lens of authentically lived experience that this film was created. It is not a white man’s version of a black superhero movie. 

Conventional Hollywood wisdom decided long ago that black people were relegated into a few camps: gang member, sassy black woman, angry black woman, sex object, or successful despite adversity. They existed to make white audiences laugh, make them afraid, turn them on, or feel sorry for them. It was few and far between that they were treated as fully realized human beings whose existence was not dependent on satisfying the needs of a white person. Hollywood also decided that they were not bankable. 

Over $500 million dollars (and climbing) and innumerable broken records later, Hollywood appears to have been wrong.

Turns out, if you get white people to stop meddling, what black people create when they tell their own stories is an absolute masterpiece. Black Panther is a triumph of storytelling, a masterwork of the superhero genre, and a template for how movies about minorities should be made. The same can be said for the Disney/Pixar animated film Coco, whose Latinx ensemble created one of the most authentic portrayals of Hispanic culture to make it to the big screen. 

The Glass Closet and the Privilege of Passing 

LGBTQ people are underrepresented in media as a whole, with people of color, women, and transgender people suffering the brunt of the lack of representation. This isn’t because there aren’t LGBTQ people in the entertainment industry; it’s because actors, actresses, writers, directors, and studios treat out LGBTQ people differently than closeted LGBTQ people. A male presenting actor that evokes the stereotypical heterosexual ladykiller persona - ie typical Hollywood good looks, heteronormative affectations...a lack of a lisp - is kept in the closet by a team of studio executives, PR managers, and others out of the notion that if women know he’s gay they won’t want to fuck him. If they don’t want to fuck him, they won’t buy tickets to his movies, and they can’t make money off of him. 

The glass closet is responsible for the careers of a number of Hollywood and media elites - some who are now out, long after it was socially acceptable to do so, and after their career and financial stability were established. Jodie Foster, Anderson Cooper, Colton Haynes, Queen Latifah, Ricky Martin, Sam Champion, Luke Evans, and more have all benefited from being acceptably straight passing and hiding out in a glass closet. 

When it comes to acting awards, there has been approximately one out gay actor to win an Oscar. (I had to correct this sentence after I did a thorough internet search, as I was convinced zero was the number.) His name is John Gielgud, and he won a best supporting actor award in 1982 for the movie Arthur. And I’m sure we all remember the long, illustrious career Geilgood...sorry, Gielgud (I’ve never heard of him before and misspelled his name) had. 

Funny story, there have been quite a lot of actors and actresses to win numerous acting awards for playing LGBTQ characters. Several noted heterosexuals have won an award for daring to play a tragic LGBTQ character, some are:
  • Tom Hanks
  • William Hurt
  • Hilary Swank
  • Charlize Theron
  • Phillip Seymour Hoffman
  • Nicole Kidman
  • Sean Penn
  • Natalie Portman
  • Christopher Plummer
  • Jared Leto 
A few things to note. 

Leto not only won for playing an LGBTQ character; he won for playing a transgender woman. Transgender women are almost completely absent from media representation with a handful of exceptions (If you’re a straight person, can you honestly tell me the name of a transgender actress who isn’t Laverne Cox without looking it up or asking someone?). And, when a powerful transgender woman role is presented, they chose a straight, cisgender, white guy. 

Of the 10 people on that list, all 10 die horrible, tragic deaths. All of them. 

All.

Of.

Them.

There are no Sandra Bullock standout complex comedic roles up for an Oscar - despite Rupert Everett being long overdue for such an award. There are no dramatic award-winning roles that end with the LGBTQ person going on to live a thriving existence. There aren’t really any LGBTQ folks up for these awards, because out gay folks are simply not asked to play themselves in cinema.

When Emma Stone played an Asian woman in the 2015 film Aloha, critics destroyed it and it flopped. The director apologized, and Hollywood endeavored for more authenticity. There has been no such outcry when it comes to LGBTQ people playing LGBTQ characters in media. Directors don’t apologize when it turns out the lead actor of this year’s gay art house darling goes home to his heterosexual life. There’s a double standard that many trot out that goes something like, “but a gay man could play a straight role and you’d be okay with it?”. Because, you know, there are just exactly the same number of quality LGBTQ roles in film and television as there are quality heterosexual roles in film and television. Exactly the same number. The comparison totally makes sense. 

I have become uneasy and less accepting than I used to be when it comes to cisgendered heterosexual people playing LGBTQ characters or telling LGBTQ stories. I have become uneasy and less accepting of supporting anyone who makes money off of living in a glass closet. From the Instagram model who stays silent during Pride month or posts not a word after a major LGBTQ tragedy such as the Pulse nightclub shooting (lest the world finds out that the guy he posts the occasional selfie with is actually his boyfriend and unfollows him because of the aforementioned ‘no longer wanting to fuck him’ thing), to the teen heartthrob who remains coy or outright lies about his dating life in an interview so as not to alienate his fanbase. I’m done with it. Being able to court LGBTQ eyeballs and LGBTQ dollars without actually needing to come out or explicitly ally yourself in a humanizing way with this very real, wholly disenfranchised community needs to end.

Inequity in Identity


I also have to sit with the concurrent reality that coming out is dangerous. I have to sit with the reality that coming out is easy when you’re a conventionally attractive, financially stable white man, but less so when you’re a person of color, a woman, or transgender. But...why is that? 

Because the public has spent far more time getting comfortable with the Will Trumans and Modern Families and other stories about well-off gay white men. They have been conditioned, slowly, to accept gay whiteness, however sexless and stereotypical the portrayal. Amongst the vast landscape of LGBTQ identity, though, is a sea of color and gender and orientation and presentation that is in desperate need of that same representation, that same public conditioning and acceptance. 

Trans identity, queer person of color identity, non-gender conforming identity, asexual/aromantic identity, bisexual identity, and even more kinds of identities that are still being named and understood. These are all valid, and all specific kinds of experiences that will never be felt or understood or bled for by an outsider. I will never understand what it is like to be a gay man of color, despite being married to one for 12 years. I will never understand what it’s like to look at my skin and my body type as secondary because the most prized and visible gay men are white and have a physically similar aesthetic. As such, it is not my place to write their stories or play their roles or direct their films. 

It is my place to stand by them. To advocate for them. To respect them. To support them. To buy their independent movies in hopes that their indie success will lead to mainstream success. Plenty of mainstream actors, actresses, and movie makers owe their careers to LGBTQ cinema. (If you don’t believe me, look up the cast list for a tv series called Dante’s Cove and tell me if anyone looks familiar.) Vocal support is wonderful, but it is financial support that leads to lasting success. 

It is my place to stand for them when they can’t stand for themselves and get out of the way when it is their time to speak. 

But in order to do any of that, we need to make room for them in our culture, and that starts by demanding more from our media. 

Casting LGBTQ People as LGBTQ Characters Shouldn’t be a Revolutionary Act

A big contender this awards season is Call Me by Your Name, a coming of age romance between two men. Both, of course, played by heterosexual white men. I am absolutely rooting for its financial and critical success, because I am hoping for the day when a major awards contender or blockbuster film about LGBTQ people is made by LGBTQ people. 

I am hoping that the success of a film like Black Panther leads movie and television studios to realize that you can find success in telling the stories of minorities, by telling them as authentically as possible. By taking away the prizes for straight actors showing off their acting chops by daring to kiss a member of the same sex and giving them to LGBTQ people showing up and playing themselves, writing themselves, directing themselves. 

I am so glad we have shows like Will & Grace on the air, but I want studios to stop pulling the ladder up behind their one diversity success. I want studios to cast out LGBTQ people in LGBTQ roles and put their money and marketing behind them the way they would other shows, or other shows about LGBTQ people played by cisgender heterosexuals. (Cough cough Transparent)

I do not believe for a moment that these roles are going to cisgender heterosexuals because there is a lack of LGBTQ talent out there. If Black Panther and Girls Trip and Coco and One Day at a Time taught us anything last year, it is that there is an ocean of talent in the world, and there is room enough for all of us. 

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte