Pagan, Queer

Purim to Equinox to Pesach: Getting Up and Shaking Off

A few days before Purim, I read a blog post describing the holiday as “Jewish Carnival.” I hate describing Jewish holidays as “Jewish [NAME OF CHRISTIAN OR SECULAR HOLIDAY HERE].” Purim celebrates a specific event where Persian Jews turned the tables on their persecutors. It’s not “Jewish anything” except Purim. Still, the comparison to Carnival made me notice something that is similar between the two, and I’ve been thinking about that ever since: both are holidays of excess leading into periods of limitation.

Carnival, a holiday of drunkenness, gluttony, and general costumed debauchery, rolls directly into Lent, a period when many Christians up something dear to (and possibly bad for) them for forty days1, and Catholics in particular have periods of complete fasting and abstaining from meat. A month after Purim, a holiday of drunkenness, gluttony, and general costumed debauchery, comes Pesach, when Jews are commanded to give up leavened goods for eight days.

Paganism – at least my branch of it – doesn’t have anything like that. We move from Imbolc, celebrating the early-season fecundity of domesticated animals (depending on who you ask, the source of the word means either “in the belly,” referring to pregnant farm animals, or “ewe’s milk”), to Spring Equinox, celebrating the balance between darkness and light and the arrival of Spring (the eventual arrival of Spring, in our neck of the woods). Pagans are not, by and large, people of privations, especially not at a time of year when the natural world is waking up and bursting forth with new life. And yet for me, at least, a sort of “shaking off” does happen at this time of year. 

I’m essentially a hermit from mid-December through mid-February. I might attend a couple holiday dos in the Winter Solstice/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa holiday constellation, but otherwise, if something’s not necessary to my life or livelihood, I don’t leave the house for it. 

I make no apologies for this. This period of rest is essential to keep me going the rest of the year. But when spring comes (or at least looks like it’s thinking about coming), it’s time to release not just my hermitude but the complacency that can come with it. 

In the middle of writing this post, I actually left my house, voluntarily, on a Thursday night, to attend a rally for the celebration and protection of trans lives organized in response to the brutal attack of a trans woman not two miles from my house. Overcoming Winter Hermit inertia took a lot of pep talks. But it’s essential to me that I show up for my communities when and how I can, and I knew it was time to shake off sleep and complacency and get ready to re-engage in the fight.

So as we move from Purim to Pesach, Imbolc to Equinox, Carnival to Lent, or whatever we observe at this time of year, let’s celebrate waking up and giving up something that holds us back from full participation in life and community. Although we acknowledge the discomfort the sacrifice brings, let’s stay focused on what we gain – and what the world can gain – in return.

Blessed be.

1 One year while I was in college, one of my Catholic friends wanted to do a big community service project during Lent – “taking on” rather than “giving up.” Her priest said no; to “count” for Lent, she had to give something up. At the time it seemed ridiculous, but these days I have a better appreciation for the importance of sacrifice in this context. (My friend still did the project. She said she was giving up a certain amount of time with her friends, which she just happened to fill with a community service project.)

Image description: a white banner reading “DEFEND TRANS LIVES.” “Defend” and “lives” in black; “trans” in blue, pink, and white. The backs of some people’s heads are visible beyond the banner. It’s snowing, and everyone is dressed for winter weather. Photo by the author.

Pagan, Queer

From the deck-in-progress The Resilient Tarot by Leora Effinger-Weintraub.

Colleen Cook, May 26, 1968 – July 8, 2019
A dear member of my Pagan and queer communities. Their dance with cancer was long and complex, and they danced it as fiercely as they could until the very end.
Requiescat in punk.

Queer, Yarncraft

The Vest

I get misgendered a lot. As an afab* person with an aesthetic I call “middle femme” (because it makes me sound like a lady Hobbit), most people who don’t know me identify me as a woman.

I know that this comes with vast privilege. Dominant culture’s ability to quickly and easily put me into one of the societally acceptable gender boxes, even if it’s not where I go, allows me a level of safety and ease that my more obviously gender-transgressing siblings, especially those who are also people of color and/or visibly disabled, do not share. Whenever I can, I use that privilege to speak and act in support of those who do not share it.

But this misgendering (or gendering, in my case) also carries isolation and invisibility. Not being identifiable as nonbinary by other members of the trans/nonbinary/gender-nonconforming community is incredibly lonely. Sometimes not being believed as nonbinary by other members of the community is heartbreaking.

It’s also cranky-making, because it feeds into a dominant culture myth, unfortunately creeping its tendrils into the queer community, that nonbinary looks a certain way: rail-thin, flat-chested, and narrow-hipped (which my short, round, descended-from-Ashkenazi-Jews-and-Welsh-farmers body will never be), wearing “unisex” clothes, which often look suspiciously like men’s clothes with muted color palettes, no pockets, and high prices. In my heart of hearts I reject that myth, but by doing so, am I perpetuating my own invisibility?

I’m often caught on the horns of two equally strong, equally aggravating impulses. I want to shave exactly half my hair, replace exactly half my wardrobe with clothes from the men’s section, and be so aggressively uncategorizable that even I wouldn’t know what gender box to put me in if we met on the street, in order to be a visible support and sibling to other nonbinary/gnc folks. And I want to keep on as I have been, promoting my fierce belief that nonbinary identity is rooted first and foremost in gender experience and only secondarily in gender expression, and that I don’t have to change myself in radical, costly, and often unhealthy ways to conform to dominant culture’s fatphobic, androcentric, Ziggy-Stardust-wannabe stereotype of what nonbinary looks like.

So, anyway, I made a vest.

It’s based on Janine Myska’s Aloha Vest crochet pattern, which I found on Ravelry. Everyone else I’ve seen has made it in a single color, but the pattern and means of construction make it well-suited to be crocheted in the colors of the agender flag: two stripes each of white, gray, and black around a central stripe of green. It took me forfreakingever, because I’m a slow and easily distracted crocheter, but I finally finished it this weekend.

Photo of a crocheted vest hanging in front of a white window curtain. The vest has one central dark green stripe surrounded by two stripes each of white, gray, and black: the colors, more or less, of the agender pride flag

Except that even here I messed up. The green yarn I had was much darker than I remembered it being: not the cheerful chartreuse of the agender flag, but a deep forest green the yarn company named “Dark Thyme” (man, I hear ya). Which means that my vest, which was meant to be both a bit of queer oomph for myself** and a subtle identifier for other agender folks, is instead just a stripey vest.

In a way, it is an awkward and all-too-fitting metaphor for my own gender identity. I, and those closest to me, recognize and honor me as an agender person. Everyone else sees a woman in a vest. That invisibility and misunderstanding hurts sometimes, but in the end, know who I am, and maybe that’s all that matters.

*assigned female at birth, meaning that when I was plucked from my mother’s womb, somebody looked at my genitals and said, “Yup, that’s a girl.”
**all my crochet projects are also acts of magic, but that’s a post for another time.
Queer, theater

I’m Never Going to Earth Again

Sixty plays. Nine playwrights. Seven performers. Ninety minutes. One wild ride.

This past weekend, Gadfly Theater Productions opened their latest show, I’m Never Going to Earth Again: 60 Queer Plays in 90 Queer Minutes. As the title implies, it’s a madcap night of one- and two-minute plays penned by a team of nine queer writers. One of which was me.

I have no words for what a delightful experience this show has been. From our earliest writers’ meeting to a dazzling opening night, watching the show come together has been magical in a way I’ve never entirely seen before. Having so much overlap between cast and writers has created a level of connection to the work and each other not often found in most “normal” theater productions.

And here’s what’s been the most precious to me: because all the writers are queer, no single one of us was expected to “represent the queer experience” (in six pages or less). We were all encouraged to write about what truly mattered to us, even if it didn’t appear, at first blush, to have anything to do with queer identity. We wrote about gods and strained family relations, about racism, classism, fatphobia, gentrification, religion, environmental degradation, coming out, breaking up, and being superheroes. Taken together, we all represented the queer experience.

And what an experience it is.


I’m Never Going to Earth Again is written by Jex Arzayus, Manny Elliott, Zealot Hamm, Ming Hsu, Kassia Lisinski, Jada Pulley, Gabriela Santiago, Cassandra Snow, and yours truly. It is performed by Jex Arzayus, Manny Elliott, Zealot Hamm, Ming Hsu, Jada Pulley, Joey Ripley, and Lyssa Sparrow. It is directed by Cassandra Snow.

It’s playing at Strike Theater in northeast Minneapolis. You have four more chances to see it!