MARS AND THE POLITICS OF DIFFERENCE – BARRY PERLMAN
“Queer astrology rests on the premise that we are actually more different from one another than is commonly assumed, expressing a widely divergent mix of desires, preferences, practices, and feelings that often don’t neatly cohere within conventional identity-categories such as “gay” or “straight”. We vary in terms of whether we want: a long-term relationship or shorter-term pairings; monogamy, non-monogamy, or polyamory; sex coupled with emotional intimacy, or sex separate from emotional intimacy; a biological family of our own, a “chosen family” of one sort or another, or a more independent existence. Likewise, we vary in how successfully we express the stereotypical qualities of our born gender, or don’t, and in how we may choose to change our outward gender-identification. To unpack all these variables (and others) is to “queer” the way we discuss these ideas with regards to ourselves, our clients, and astrology.
As a human-created meaning-system, astrology cannot exist outside of our linguistic frameworks.
The language we use in our client-sessions, lectures, writings, and discussions is never separate from the astrology itself. And like any meaning-system, astrology reflects the mainstream biases of the society in which it’s practiced. Queer astrology seeks to challenge these biases, breaking the traditional silence around non-conforming gender and sexual expressions, while deconstructing the pathologizing tone often used when such expressions are mentioned at all. How we conceive of, and communicate, the meaning of the astrology in a client’s chart can make a profound difference between them experiencing self-empowerment or shame in their lives.
I take this seriously enough (and have witnessed enough damage done to clients by more careless astrologers) that I felt called to become a vocal participant in this “queering” of astrology. I am in a well-suited position to take on this blending of astrological practice with queer theory and feminism, as I’d been traveling the academic path prior to becoming a professional astrologer, through interdisciplinary graduate work which explored representations of gender and sexuality in popular culture. Because astrology has been largely ostracized from the academy for centuries, it still lags behind in its integration of these more recent linguistic and conceptual considerations. It’s now our job to do this work within the wider astrological community.
What is a queer astrology?
Truth be told, I don’t know. I feel like I have permission to acknowledge that in a way that rarely is given. We’re making it up. We’re figuring it out. We’re co-creating it with the wise and beloved allies gathering this July and beyond. I’m more interested in hearing from each and every one of you what your queer astrology is. Perhaps this is at the heart of what is arising.
Is it possible that astrology has always been queer and that queerness has always been cosmic? Goodness knows that the practices of each have been much maligned and used as an excuse for violence and abuse. Goodness also knows that each are a source of profound liberation, acceptance and relief to many. The holy union invokes supreme compassion for ourselves and everyone else, inviting in playful exploration of these crossroads as the intersections unfold into a more whole picture of what’s possible.
Because queering astrology looks like teaching and sharing it in creative ways, getting more stylish and interesting, I offer you, dear reader, a poem.
We survive the highest stakes
of burning times and stonewalls
Rising fierce and firm
Ancestors calling now
Share our stories
written in ash and ashe
the wisdom flows toward us, from us, thru us
a rising tide
locating ourselves inside, making the outer-space,
The stars speak
intertwined with earth
skyward heart felt,
Our bodies reconnecting
finally at home
This is what wants to happen now
Healing for the Healers
Astrology is the craft of identifying meaningful connections between the apparent movement of celestial bodies through our sky and human behavior here on earth. Like with any meaning-system, astrology reflects the mainstream biases of the society in which it’s practiced—for instance, that among one’s primary life-goals should be the establishment of a long-term monogamous relationship with a member of the opposite sex.
Queer astrology adopts a perspective that actively challenges such biases, deconstructing the assumption that our relational desires, our gender and sexual expressions, will always neatly line up with each other according to societal expectations. Rather than seeking to fit ourselves into certain confining identity-boxes, proud queers (as opposed to, say, ‘homosexuals’) happily wear our incongruities on our sleeves. Queer astrology breaks the silence that astrological tradition has typically held on these matters, while working to defuse the pathologizing tone in which the rare mentions of alternative gender or sexual expression are offered, to present alternative models for attaining personal satisfaction that actually speak to our lived experience.
We need to queer astrology (using ‘queer’ as a verb) because individuals are actually more different from each other than we commonly admit… and the more we can evolve our astrological practices to address an ever-widening diversity of human experiences and desires, the better we can help our clients gain comfort with genuinely expressing the unique quirks of their true selves. Whether or not clients identify as queer, they will still benefit from an astrological approach that doesn’t assume they ought to look, dress or act a certain way, date or sleep with those of a certain gender, or structure their interpersonal relationships in a certain fashion, based upon what sort of body they were born into. In queering astrology, we give individuals the permission to freely be themselves.
Queer. In etymological dictionaries, queer was archaically used to label the eccentric and the oblique. Eccentric, which has connotations of peculiarity and oddity, denotes more literally being outside of or unrelated to the notion of center. Oblique likewise describes slanting or sloping; in math it is lines or planes neither parallel nor perpendicular, in discourse something inconclusive or indirect. Eccentric upsets any clear boundary which is defined in relation to a singular focus. Oblique contravenes symmetry. Arising out from the endless vectors of space, obliquity insists that unending perspectives each relate to a given focus.
Where previously queer was used as an gender-variant slur, more recently the word has been reappropriated. What is useful here is the way this usage varies depending on point of view. From within establishment, queer marks outsiders. When used to put down, it may point to anyone outside the bounds of ‘acceptable’ gendered or sexual practice. This usage affirms norms and marks as less-than any eccentricity from these dominating patterns. Meanwhile for self-identifying queers, the word marks liberation and emancipation. It usurps the authority of the bully and pulls authorship onto ones self.
In the history of conceptualizing the solar system, queer might mark the departure from classical western models of planetary spheres toward more true elliptical orbits and planets whose wanderings never revisit the exact same coordinates. Mathematical efforts to chart what was historically believed to be a closed and regular/regulated system have given measurements which predict non-repeating and interminably self-inventing possibilities.
These shifts are echoed the paradigmatic breaking open of the traditional solar system. Before, only the bodies visible to the ancients by the unaided eye existed: Saturn was the end of everything. Later, a more modern system which opened upon the discovery of (popularly-called) Uranus, coinciding with a breakdown out from the facts and hard edges which have held the cultural mainstream thus far.
The skies have not changed, these change points were simply limits to old ways of measuring and perceiving. From within the bounds of Saturn, queer may persist as Other. Yet in the unbound possibilities which lie beyond, a queer astrology opens upon ways of relating not yet accounted for. These suggestions indeed predict lines of sight as of yet oblique to the whole of our historical knowing.