(sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) means to take a course opposite that of the sun, going counterclock-wise, lefthandwise, or to circle an object, by always keeping it on the left. It also means "in a direction opposite to the usual," which is how I choose to take it in using it as the title of this blog. We're all in the same world finding our own way.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I needs to post something

Winter break has gone on too long
I think I need to break it.
Anyone have a Luddite Hammer? It adds +32 strength against the internet.

Also this is: http://answerintheformofaquestion.blogspot.com/2009/12/microsoft-china-rips-off-plurk.html

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Queer Tarot: A Final Project

Tarot, like Mark Doty’s Ouija board, in Western culture is seen as a part of the occult. It is relegated to the fringes of society, the dark corners of psychic shops, late night television and gypsy houses, seen from a distance but rarely ever sold. But at the same time, it has been around for centuries, used historically as a divination tool and card game, and in more recent years has gained a wider acceptance into mainstream culture. Walk into any Borders, and you can find and purchase a deck of tarot for under $30. The same can be said of queer and gay culture and identity.

The deck I’ve created is meant to reflect some of those parallels, drawing on the traditional meanings of the cards and prominent images from within queer culture to make new meanings based in part within GLBT theory.

Tradition states that the Fool, sometimes numbered 0, sometimes numbered infinity, is the card of infinite possibilities. It is a card of the future, of new beginnings. Here we have a card that depicts not a lone traveler standing on the edge of a precipice, but an activist, faceless and alone. The Fool here wears traditionally masculine clothing and appears to have short cropped hair, but because of the facelessness, defies the gender binary. Possibilities are indeed open as the activist hopes for the future and endeavors to bring it forward. Equality, safety, family, all the hallmarks of the gay civil rights movements can be represented by the simple rainbow sign, but the card is still the Fool. A movement is not one person. Change will not happen because one person, alone, stands on a street corner and yells to passerby. But one person can start a movement; just like how Galloway in Mean Little Deaf Queer defied her own limitations and went on to create from within herself a life worth telling about.

The Empress in this deck is a Queen, specifically an image of RuPaul from a promotional photo for RuPaul’s Drag Race, and what better way to queer-up what is seen as the mother card of Tarot than to express it as the extreme feminine that is simultaneously everything masculine? In this card we can see the dualities of identity. As a drag queen, RuPaul represents everything about the Empress, that spark of creation and performance in art and life, gender as a performance as Butler worded it. As the antipode of traditional femininity though, she evokes a certain level of acceptance and almost tongue-in-cheek playfulness to the idea of gender. The role of queen, empress, and mother is not limited to the female, but is instead an inherent trait available to all peoples, showing that the idea of essentialism, that there is only one kind of Empress, does not hold true in the face of drag. It is proof that there can be aspects of the mother in all of us.

A wedding topper marks the Lovers in this queer tarot deck. In many traditions of tarot, this card is known simply as Love because love is seen as a force of decision and control. You surrender to a higher power when you submit to love and are forced to make decisions that you might not make otherwise. Celie, of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, submitted to love and she found her strength through it. It is this idea of love that so strongly resonates within the queer community because it has been a rallying point around which to draw those battle lines that the activists (the Fools) can work to create the kinds of change the Empress represents. And in recent history, the biggest rallying point of the queer community has been this idea of gay marriage. On another level too, marriage marks a decision as you choose to make those vows and give up or adjust your lifestyle. And for that matter, the decision to allow/not allow gay marriage or the decision to get one are both cultural creations. We are not born married, but through the constructions of our society we are indoctrinated to believe that it is something we want. The cultural imperative to marry is so embedded that social and political structures have grown up around it. Taken in that sense, this card can serve as a warning against the very image it so innocently projects. Marriage is not natural any more than these wedding toppers are actual people or actual food.

Rather than the Hanged Man, the next card we find is a Well-hung Man dangling in similar position to the traditional card his black leather chaps, thong and chest-belt showing him to be something a little more than your average queer but as someone from the further marginalized spectrum of sadomasochistic inclinations. He is a visual example of Rubin’s sexual hierarchy. For his preference for bondage, he has been strung up and left to dangle, which for all its irony perfectly shows the meaning of the original Hanged Man, the idea that in suspension of thought, in meditation and reflection we find new perspectives that can lead to insight. Within other aspects of what it means to be queer, beyond the gender binary, beyond the heteronormative constructions that have homogenized and isolated the queer community to being ruled by a class of white, middle-class gay men, we find sub-queers that can live perfectly happy, productive lives and are indeed no threat to society but a part of it.

For the final card, we have Death, the unnamed skeletal creature that walks with its sickle, portending doom. But just as Mark Doty did in his discussion of AIDS in My Alexandria, Death is not a thing to be afraid of. It gets a bad rap from pop culture and society, but it is a tool of transformation and change part of the cycle of renewal. An end is but a new beginning, for spring cannot bloom if not first for the fallow wastes of winter. There is beauty in the act of passing. And so in this queered tarot we find a frail, skeletal looking woman admiring a bright, vibrant flower, freshly bloomed. The Fool then is an agent of Death, working to end the cultural stigmas around the queer identity and bring about a new world as the minority works to be recognized and integrated into the acceptance taken for granted by the majority.