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! 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! 

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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:

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Support Pagan media! Consider giving a small, monthly donation to! 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! 

@IncitingARiot on Twitter
Subscribe/Rate/Comment on iTunes:

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. 


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. 




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

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Tea Bag Cleansing Spell

I’ve always loved spells that looked like magic. Throwing salt into a fire creates all those sparkly fairy lights. Different minerals added to fire or water create really interesting color or smoke effects. You know; magic that takes you back to childhood wonderment. That’s why I love this ridiculously easy, witchy cleansing spell. Best of all it uses ingredients you already have in your kitchen!

  1. Gather up a writing implement, tea bag (the cheap kind that’s stapled at the top), scissors, and either matches or a lighter.
  2. Cut off the top of the tea bag in a straight, horizontal line. Try to keep this as flat a cut as possible. 
  3. Dump out the tea and flatten out the bag. You should have a tube. 
  4. Write on the empty tea bag tube something you want to remove from your life. This can be an emotion such as fear, an abstract concept such as debt (or you can write down the specific amount of debt), or something very specific like a person or wanting to be out of your current job. 
  5. Then, take the flattened tea bag, make a tube out of it, and stand it on its end. At this point you could say some words of intention or make some gestures. You could stand the bag on a banishing sigil. You can really go all out with this. As for me, I tend to just stand it on whatever countertop I happen to be near at the time. 
  6. Light it on fire. 
  7. Be amazed.
I find this works best on emotions or internal monologues that you’ve been holding on to far past their expiration date. 

Also, just for fun, I’ve created this how-to video below! Let me know in the comments or via email how YOU used the Tea Bag Cleansing Spell!

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Episode 114: Inciting A Coping Riot

Episode 114 of Inciting A Riot: the podcast finds us taking a look back at the best parts of 2017. News you may have missed, good headlines that didn't get the attention they deserved, and my favorite books, movies, and streaming shows of the year!

News: 2017 retrospective - the best stories of the year. 

WOTD: 2017 word of the year ‘Feminism’

Books: Fav reads and views of 2017 

Spirituality: magical coping - tea bag spell

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Allies, it’s time to kill your darlings.

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard the term “kill your darlings”. This comes from a piece of writing advice first stated by William Faulkner and made even more famous by Stephen King. The idea is that you might have sentences, paragraphs, maybe even entire chapters or characters that you adore...but make little to no sense in the context of the overall narrative. They’re personally important or favored to you, so much so that you’d let the entire narrative fail rather than remove a bad paragraph. It’s a piece of advice that I’ve been ruminating on this week as even more members of Hollywood’s elite are being named as part of a history of using their modicum of fame and position to molest and abuse men and women. It’s the very first thing my brain thought when news came out that George Takei was accused. 

It should be stated up front, I’m going to probably continue using the phrase “kill your darlings” throughout this article. I’d like to preface this by explicitly stating I mean this in the literary sense of the phrase and not a literal sense of the phrase. I also do not plan on using this article to litigate or relitigate the actions of any one person’s accusations. Rather, I hope that we can have a discussion about the need to stop protecting or making excuses for our darlings - those individuals that we personally adore or mean something special to us. 

When I first heard that George Takei was accused of molesting an unconscious man in his home a few decades ago, I became very still. During this recent wave of revelations regarding the perniciousness of sexual harassment and abuse by powerful men in entertainment and government, it has been very easy to hate the accused. Harvey Weinstein has had rumors swirling about him for years. Brett Ratner is pretty much the douchebag frat guy everyone hated in college. Would be Alabama senator Roy Moore is from the same mould as the man our country elected as President. The more and more names were added to the list, the more I found myself nodding my head. 

Until I started hearing names of men I admire and respect.

When the names George Takei and Jeffrey Tambor were added to the ever growing list, I had to decide if I say I am an ally because this is another arrow in my Liberal Quiver to use against conservative men I already despise, or whether I say I am an ally because I truly stand against the culture of allowing the powerful to prey on women and men who aren’t as powerful or famous or wealthy or influential as they are. Typing even those last few sentences was an awakening in itself. When allies claim they are allies, it is important to understand (both to the ally and to the allied) why they claim that title. 

Is it because being an ally to the LGBT community is a fun thing to be during June when there are lots of pretty parades to attend? Is it because when there’s a women’s march, you don’t want to be the guy in the office who doesn’t say he’s a feminist? Are you an ally because you don’t want to introduce your new boyfriend to your family because he’s black and you’re just not sure how they’ll react?

I mean...probably. 

People become allies for all sorts of innocuous reasons, mundane injustices, but it’s what you do once you’ve come into the fold that’s important. You need to hear the voices of the oppressed, listen to their collective experiences, believe them, and work towards change. In the case of the social sea change we’re experiencing, it’s important to understand that what is being uncovered exists at all layers of social strata. It has no sexual orientation, no political affiliation, no specific income level, and no dress code. It is everywhere, you’ve probably experienced it at some level yourself, and you may even have committed some level of it, too. 

So, when you find out your favorite movie star or internet celebrity or politician (looking at you, Al Franken) or trainer at your local gym or your friend’s boss accused of groping an unconscious woman because he thought it would be a funny picture, or intimidated and sought sex from a teenage girl while he was in his 30s, or used his position of authority to lure women into a hotel room for his own sexual gratification, it is important to decide if you are an ally because you want to do something about the problem, or you want to get credit for being a good person. 

If you’re here to fix the problem, then, allies, it’s time to embrace the idea that you must kill your darlings. 

Joss Whedon, Al Franken, George Takei, Jeffrey Tambor, Louis CK, Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor...the list will grow. It will include someone you admire. Someone you respect. Someone you may credit as an inspiration. They do not get a pass because you like their work or their advocacy or their charity. They do not get a pass because they created progressive work or championed progressive causes. They do not get to avoid consequences because you thought they were one of the good ones. 

It might not sit well to accept that a pioneer LGBT figure could be guilty of the same crime as the skeezy conservative politician it’s easy for you to hate. But, you must kill your darling and recognize this is a societal disease. You must recognize that victims are only just now finding the support they need to raise their voice and tell their story, despite personal backlash or repercussion. And you must continue working to make good on your claim of being a real ally. 

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Episode 113: Inciting A Body Riot

Episode 113 of Inciting A Riot: the Podcast is a frank group discussion all about body politics. We have an honest look at what makes a "real woman", the issue of black hair, dress codes, and much more. 

Major thanks to High Mugwump Danny Kinniburgh, as well as Priestesses Kerry Beckler, and Andrea Santoro for being major donors! 

Support Pagan media! Consider giving a small, monthly donation to! 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! 

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

@IncitingARiot on Twitter
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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Episode 112: Inciting A Hallowed Riot (2017)

A Mystery in the Webster Tunnel - Meg Elison

Witches’ Ball - The Dagons

The Haunted Oak - Paul Lawrence Dunbar as read by Stephanie Swan Quills

Black Eyes - David Wirsig

Lady M.’s Fortune Shoppe - Fire Lyte

@IncitingARiot on Twitter

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Episode 111: Inciting A Leading Riot

Episode 111 of Inciting A Riot: the Podcast finds us Inciting A Leading Riot. I interview a few folks at Chicago's Pagan Pride to discuss what they look for in Pagan leadership and what the next generation of leaders looks like. Also, I deconstruct my thoughts on the recent National Coming Out Day. 

News: Las Vegas, Trump/NBC, To Kill A Mockingbird, Wigglian News

WOTD: Palliate:

Sociology: Thoughts on National Coming Out Day

Spirituality: Pagan Pride interviews on Leadership

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

@IncitingARiot on Twitter

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Honesty and the Eclipse

Yesterday the coast to coast solar eclipse gave most of us a reason to pause, to regard Nature. Pagan, Christian, Pastafarian, or simply a human, it didn't matter yesterday. The sun and moon were doing a really cool dance that we don't get to see very often in our truncated human lifetimes. But, to read in some nooks of the Pagan interwebs, it seemed that many were preparing for either catastrophe or enlightenment. I didn't experience either of those things, and I think it's just as important to say when "woo woo" experiences don't happen just as much as when they do. 

I've talked in the past about UPG - Unverified Personal Gnosis - and the need to have honest conversations in our community. Podcasts like New World Witchery have done excellent, repeated discussion about spell failures. I think it is equally important to highlight when an endeavor fails or an experience is not had. Why? Because there are a lot of folks that don't have sparks fly from the end of their wands when they swish them through the air or literally hear the voice of deity when they meditate, and they need to know their paths and experiences are just as valid as everyone else's. 

It also helps to create a spectrum of experiential conversation in our community. 

Vyviane Armstrong - Pagan blogger and spiritual travel advisor (seriously, you should hit her business up) - asked this morning:

And, naturally, there were a lot of responses from Pagans immediately espousing that they, too, felt a great cosmic shift/had an experience/felt this energy as well. Lots of people started glomming on to the idea that they felt this energy was helping them "prepare" for something that's coming. I had a slightly different reaction:

Followed by this quick back and forth:

In short, there are a lot of Pagan/Witchy/Spiritual folks that will be writing blog posts and think pieces and posting gorgeous photos of their ritual spaces during the eclipse, and it's enough to make the average Pagan/Witchy/Spiritual person have some severe FOMO. It's enough to cause feelings of inadequacy or question the veracity of your path. When you're locked up in a cubicle out of the line of totality and can't run outside to look at the sun for a few minutes, but you read about how dozens of Pagan writers held massive outdoor rituals and charged objects and have grand plans for all the eclipse energy they soaked up, it can leave you feeling like a bad Pagan. Worse is if you attended one of these events and left thinking "well that was a cool site to see," but then later find out that Susie SuperPriestess heard the voice of the Goddess during the eclipse or Marcus the ManWitch was able to defeat the Fire Nation during the Eclipse. It's those times when it's nice to hear that other Pagans came away, just like you, thinking "shucks that was neat" and that be the end of it. 

If you felt something powerful yesterday, great.

If you saw something cool yesterday, great.

If the best you could do was check out YouTube videos of the event after you got off a long day at work, great. 

We're all seekers, and it's totally ok and totally valid if your search doesn't always yield results. Just Keep Seeking. 

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Monday, August 21, 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017

Today, I took a few minutes from my afternoon to witness a small piece of history. Along with hundreds of my fellow humans, I disappeared from the office, scurried down the elevator, and stood in the streets of Chicago to gaze at the solar eclipse (through protective eyewear). I didn't perform a ritual or mutter a spell under my breath. I held no gemstones to the heavens in hopes of capturing the energy of the eclipse. There are no bowls of water or salt or earth laid out on an altar of wood back at my house. 

Today, my brand of Paganism was to stand alongside my fellow man and witness nature. Funnily enough that tends to be my brand of Paganism, to witness nature and remind myself that I am but a very tiny speck in a massive, ever turning whole. 

And, what I've noticed about days like this is that I am not alone. While most folks don't call themselves Pagan, and wouldn't even think to acknowledge that they're honoring "The Olde Gods/Goddesses", folks still show up for Nature when She's putting on a show. A couple of years ago there was a zeitgeist surrounding the Supermoon. People held parties, went to beaches, took pictures, and were generally geeked out about the moon. 

My brand of Paganism has become a much more literal interpretation of the notion of the Immanent Sacred, the Divine in the Everyday. I revere the seasons that change and the earth that rotates and the waters that provide and the fires that transform. I am not sure where that leaves me on the spectrum of belief in cloud people, but I know that there is a spark of magic inside of me...inside us all...and every now and then it calls us to the street or the beach or the backyard. It beseeches us to look, to witness, and to remind us that we are all humbled before the totality of creation. 

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Monday, July 10, 2017

Wonder Woman on my Altar: Modern Faces of Ancient Deities

Wonder Woman has had a massive impact on moviegoers this year. As of this writing, it has made around $750 million worldwide, and that number is only climbing thanks to the confluence of a number of factors:

  1. It's a bad ass superhero movie in an era where bad ass superhero movies thrive.
  2. It faithfully brings to life a character that comic readers and pop culture fans have loved for over half a century. 
  3. It does all of these things while having a female director and female lead action hero, which, sadly, is an all too rare thing these days. 
  4. The Amazonian beach fight scene. 
Seeing Diana Prince fight on the battlefield against a World War I backdrop was incredibly powerful, but it was what happened at the end of the film that caused me to have an Aha! moment (and what led to a rewiring of my own thinking about the nature of deity). 

Fans of the comic have known for quite some time that, technically speaking, Wonder Woman/Diana Prince is a goddess. I've seen her called a goddess of hope, a goddess of love, a goddess of war, and sometimes simply a demigoddess by dint of her divine nature. And, in film, this feat is made apparent in Diana's final battle with the movie's Big Bad - Ares. She assumes her divine mantel and is able to defeat him in the end. It's a beautiful moment for the character, for the audience, and it was an awe-inspiring moment for me. was in that moment that I finally got it knocked into my thick skull what many have been saying for years. Comic books are modern myth.
Back when the Riot began, I initially made a name for myself on places like Witch Vox and elsewhere with an article titled "The Pagan Secret". The gist of the article was that Paganism has enough "real" gods and goddesses in it, and that adding figures like Santa Claus to that list was somehow beneath "real" Paganism. It was the work of a young Pagan who had a lot of book learning and very little lived experience who was determined to show off how very, very smart he was. Later on I wrote blog after blog after blog amending and undoing the thoughts I expressed in that initial article, but I don't think I ever did so having actually learned the right lesson. And, it's a lesson that I should have learned much earlier, as it was something I discussed in another widely read, early Riot era article "Playing with God-Doh" in which I discussed the historically accurate fact that the names and faces we attribute to the gods have morphed over the millennia as their myths were blended with the meeting of cultures and taken across the world. 

In retrospect, I have to wonder why it took so long for me to be able to accept the idea that, if Athena can go through a number of name changes depending on the culture in which she finds herself, why not add another name to the list? Why do we accept that the evolution of deity stopped somewhere along the way? If the gods themselves didn't stop existing thousands of years ago, then why do we assume that their names, faces, and roles stopped changing as well?

American Gods is my favorite work of standalone adult fiction. Hands down. It is responsible for multiple spiritual and personal Aha! moments along my path. And, it's become a runaway success for Starz in its television adaptation. I was a bit nervous to see American Gods being given the TV treatment, as the book is so precious to me, and other literary favorites didn't quite make the journey from page to screen successfully. (Looking at you, Harry Potter, Eat Pray Love, and The Dark is Rising)

I'm not giving away any spoilers in telling you that the season finale depicts 14 different versions of Jesus Christ, with a 15th shown earlier in the season. While this is never explicitly depicted in the book, it is referenced that there are multiple Jesuses - just as the Gods and Goddesses themselves are merely North American iterations of their European, African, and Asian counterparts. That same episode is also the first time the thesis of American Gods is driven home. Namely, that the "old" gods and goddesses get new names and adapt new sovereignty in order to continue to exist. We saw it in earlier versions in the first season - the seductress Bilquis (whose role is greatly expanded to AG's benefit in the adaptation) and the United States' god of guns and ammo Vulcan (whose role, I believe, is a wholly new character in the AG universe).

Easter/Ostara, played to utter perfection by Kristin Chenoweth, starts off as a goddess who has gotten by and been raised up by sharing "her day" with the various versions of Jesus. While not ideal, she continues to draw plenty of power and immortality by the hunting of the eggs and the feasting of rabbit and the speaking of her name, "Easter". However, as Wednesday/Odin points out, people are not truly doing these things in her name. Hijinks and magic ensue, including the first truly powerful display of godhood from one of the old gods since the series began. (Seriously, watch the show.)

What Wonder Woman and Easter have in common is the notion that the gods didn't stop evolving. The archetypal myths still exist. Somewhere deep down in the human spirit we have this urge to retell the tale of the redeemed, the chaotic, the heroic, and the damned. You may love the idea of a powerful triple goddess with supreme powers who holds sway over fate and destruction and the spark of life, who lights up the darkness with her fire. Might I be speaking about Hecate? Or possibly Jean Grey?

Jean Grey, the Phoenix, has three forms: a life-giving force for good, a dark, fiery force of destruction, and a balanced version who is more powerful than both. (The artist, above, is Greg Land, and this is from his work in the Marvel story Phoenix: Endsong.)

Am I suggesting that we all start replacing statues of the gods in our home with action figures? Not necessarily, but I'm definitely saying I wouldn't look at you sideways if you did. The way I have come to understand the divine and our relationship with it is that it doesn't seem to care what name you have to give it in order to have a relationship with it. It existed before humans gave it names. It existed before humans divided it up into cat-headed goddesses and robed gods of sunshine and long before those same humans started clothing their gods in spandex.

I think the point of having a relationship with the gods is to have a relationship with oneself. To be able to dig down inside yourself through story and song and folklore to find your better parts and bring those to the surface. To, from time to time, polish that spark of divinity that resides in each of us, that connects us to the universe and to one another. Our ancestors spoke of Hermes and Frigg and Anansi in order to help give order to the unknown forces around them. But, the point was that they spoke of them. They told stories of their feats and raised cups on their holy days and drew power and gave offering to their slowly changing faces, because behind the names were the wind and rain and stars and slow, burning cycle of the universe.

And I've stopped caring whether you want to call your goddess Wonder Woman or Athena or Inanna or Mother or, simply, Goddess. Certain sects of Wicca teach that the Goddess has no face, because she wears all faces. She is all goddesses, named an unnamed. The God is all gods named and unnamed. And they are each, in turn, simply iterations of a primal divinity. The more I study what is known and what is believed by spiritualists the world over, the more that idea feels right.

I'm sure there is a hard polytheist out there pointing and laughing at their computer screen right now, or maybe they've already got half of a hate mail letter drafted, but that's ok. I don't mind being wrong about the nature of the divine anymore.

One final thing...

I have this shelf at work where I keep a collection of different pop culture figures that all mean something to me. There's Discord from My Little Pony (yep...I guess I'm a brony). There's Regina from Once Upon a Time. There's Kamala Khan, Marvel's current Ms. Marvel (a bad ass Muslim superhero). Dumbledore, Myrtle Snow, and Maleficent all share a bit of that shelf, too. Do I think of them as gods and goddesses? No. However, they each inspire me in a very specific, very important way. And, when I am having a stressful moment or need to find clarity in chaos, I often look to those figures and remind myself of their stories. Some make me smile, and some, like Misty Day, make me sad, but I don't know that I'd be any more or less inspired than if I were flipping through the pages of a book of mythology (some of which I also keep at my desk for the same reason).

These characters, and their stories, are just as alive for me as the folklore and myths I grew up reading. I read Arthur Cotterell and Edith Hamilton alongside Marvel and DC. While I didn't connect them then, the older I get, the more their realness blends together.

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Episode 110: Inciting A Wonderful Riot

Episode 110 of Inciting A Riot: the Podcast finds us discussing Wonder Woman and the notion of pop culture deities as ancient archetypes in spiritual practice. 

News: SCOTUS Travel Ban & Wisconsin Gerrymandering, Michelle Carter/Texting Murder, Texas’ LGBT rulings, New England Journal Air Pollution

WOTD: tristful

Sociology: Let me tell you of my privilege.

Poetry: When does a war…

Spirituality: Wonder Woman and Pop Culture Deities


Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

@IncitingARiot on Twitter
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