Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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On Being Called a Fag

 Reader Alert: Homophobic Language


I've been called "fag" many times in my life, but probably the last place in the world where I would have expected to have it happen again was the “Paganism and the LGBTQ+ Experience” panel discussion at Paganicon.

It always hurts more when your defenses are down.

Let me hasten to add that this hate speech was no fault of either the panel's organizer or the panelists themselves. It came, rather, from an audience member who stood up to speak during the post-presentation discussion.

(Since I don't know pronoun preferences for this specific individual, I'll use “3.”)

This person, who self-identifies as Third Gender, talked—inter alia—about how, although it wasn't 3's real identity, 3 used to pass as a “fag” because it was easier.

Yeah, tell me about how easy it is to be a fag. Tell me all about it.

Sorry, sweetie, that's not the way it works. I'll take “fag” from another fag, but I won't take it from you. “Fag” is in-group language, and for us fags only. From anyone else, it's a slur.

So listen, 3.

You've opted out; fine.

But in-group language is for the in-group.

From anyone else, it's hate.


Because homophobia kills.

That's why.


Above: Matthew Shepard (1976-1998)


Last modified on
Tagged in: homophobia
Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Murphy Pizza
    Murphy Pizza Monday, 25 March 2019

    I'm curious about how old this individual was..And what they know about the pain and struggle and danger that LGBTQ folks from previous generations endured so that individual felt safe enough to stand up and say something so thoughtless..

    Did anyone in the room address this person directly?..

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Monday, 25 March 2019

    Old enough to know better.

    To have raised the issue then and there would have been to co-opt the discussion, so I didn't do it and neither did anyone else.

    Hence the post.

  • Murphy Pizza
    Murphy Pizza Monday, 25 March 2019


    Well, let's hope eventually someone helps this individual learn...

    Sorry to hear this happened to panel participants and attendees.

  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien Monday, 25 March 2019

    Sorry to learn of this.

    On a related issue, once I asked the late Sparky Rabbit, a member of a coven called the Twisted River Witches, if his Craft had a tradition and if so, what. He said what he practiced was Faggot Witchcraft. How then should I, a straight white woman, have respectfully referred to it if I should speak of it in the wider Pagan world?

    Just to CMA, I don't know if he was with the Twisted River Witches at the time he answered that. It was many years ago and my timeline may have conflated. I love the coven name, tho. :-)

    Please forgive me if it happens I'm pushing this discussion in an unproductive direction. My question is sincere. I absolutely know that I will accept the terms "girl," "chick," or "bitch" from another woman but not from anyone else. Same with "Mick" or "mackerel snapper." I am no one's "honey" except my sweetie's.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Monday, 25 March 2019

    I'm not quite prepared to offer a general rule-of-thumb for quoting offensive--or potentially offensive--language yet (as the Wizard of Oz said, "I'll have to give the matter a little thought"). It does seem to me that when quoting someone else, it's our responsibility to quote as accurately as possible.

    In the particular case that you cite: If I were writing for a gay audience, I would write "Faggot Witchcraft" or "what he calls Faggot Witchcraft." If I were writing for the general public, I would write "Faggot [sic] Witchcraft" or "what he calls Faggot [sic] Witchcraft."

    I'm guessing that that would probably have pissed Sparky off, and certainly not for the first time. With Sparky--reborn to the people--that was just the cost of doing business.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Monday, 25 March 2019

    P.S. I don't find your question untoward at all. If we can't use the specific as a springboard into examination of the general, it seems to me that we've failed in our role as elders, not to mention as the (would-be) Wise.

  • Aline "Macha" O'Brien
    Aline "Macha" O'Brien Monday, 25 March 2019

    "what he calls Faggot Witchcraft." This is how I've referred to it in the past.

    "I'm guessing that that would probably have pissed Sparky off," Yup!

  • Kile Martz
    Kile Martz Tuesday, 26 March 2019

    From the chair I sat in, it was very Orwellian. In hindsight, I think much of what was said in that workshop was couched in desperate attempts to control language and labels, and in doing so, elevate some troubled, seeking people to a special status. When we constantly roil the language and the labels we place on gender, sexuality, and spirituality, simply to keep large swaths of the rest of humanity in the "other" category because, once again, "they" do not understand "us," we are not seeking understanding and common ground, we are wallowing in our own self-loathing.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Wednesday, 27 March 2019

    Hearing one well-fed American voice after another listing his/her/their preferred pronouns, I have to admit that I couldn't help but think: Yeah, tell it to a sub-Saharan mother whose child is dying of hunger.

    Go ahead: tell her your bloody pronouns.

    Ye gods! How privileged, self-obsessed, and entitled we are.

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