Category Archives: Vulnerability

Personal reaction to the post on “Safety & Inclusivity after Orlando”

I’ve been doing some writing trying to put into words how I feel about the recent blog post
Part of it is that I really would like to be listened to and seen by male faeries as I am, and it be appreciated I may not represent and speak for all women
I feel as though to be seen in the group of ‘women’ all the time is something I have found limiting and quite scary throughout my life – hence why I became queer!
To go to an inclusivity circle and be there as ‘a woman’ is a pretty scary thing and having a bunch of men ask themselves ‘what can we do to protect the women’ is also pretty scary
I am also not an ‘essentialist’ when it comes to gender. I recognise the impact of sexism and think it had a massive impact on what happened at the gathering
But I also think it is really not something we should be too simplistic about, e.g. from now on women are really vulnerable to this and men aren’t, therefore attributing certain fixed characteristics to people’s genders
Because to me being queer is about accepting diversity in gender, yet I heard some pretty essentialist views about women in the faeries. That when women express some dominating qualities they are being masculine ,or men are being feminine if they are submissive . I personally just think we are being ourselves, and men can be passive and women can be assertive, whatever!
I am so used to losing freedoms to be myself in a space as soon as people start clinging to gender definitions and men start trying to be heroes
I’ve been lashed out by so many men treating their role as protector of me as a woman as an ego boost who then attack me when I don’t show my appreciation for them by acting like (their view of) one
That is what is making me quite uncomfortable to join in discussion ‘as a woman’. I don’t want to be labelled as a transgressive or subversive woman if I don’t say something typical
I don’t want other people taking the ‘woman ‘identity and putting it on me when I want to define who I am as a woman in the space, not be part of some collective mentality
I am also feeling like these issues should not just be seen as women’s issues within the faeries. We all should be concerned about any group or individual experiencing abuse or being victimised
Personally I feel strongly I do not want the male faeries to ‘protect me’ I would like to define how I protect myself in the space as a person not play a role for the male faeries to protect
That triggers off all kinds of things for me

That’s my personal thoughts

Rachel

~~~~~~~

Hi, I feel like saying that I don’t feel safe in a space where men expect me to have a ‘heart circle’ with someone whose behaviour instantly reminds me of one of my abusers. I have twice been a rape victim and experience post traumatic symptoms I do not come to faerie gatherings to be part of a triggering psychological experiment

After “John” was asked to leave I listened to two days of conversation of empathy and compassion for him and his behaviour, and when it came to the impact on the women was told briefly ‘it was just inappropriate behaviour’. I was told no one was harmed, and he really wasn’t all that bad. I did not hear anyone express any concern for those who might not have felt safe. Only what a shame it was he could not have stayed so he could have been helped.

When I raised a conversation I had heard with someone else, I was told you can’t possibly have heard that in faerie space, and names were demanded I had men demand I tell them what John actually said and did when I didn’t feel comfortable to.

People said it was just women’s lower sex drives or John bisexuality or sexual confusion that was the issue. When I contradicted this as a bisexual and a woman, a man told me ‘myself and another man had this conversation and this is the conclusion we have come to’ – end of conversation!

I heard John having conversation with his partner rating the women at the gathering, rating me, and selecting me as a target for his behaviour.

I also overheard conversation with two male faeries about him describing how he met a girl and she only wanted a hug, and how he said “come on ..”,and expected her to sleep with him, and he was bragging about how this girl should have wanted it and couldn’t accept how she didn’t. And trying to recruit faeries to go out and find a girl to bring back for sex

Told that it was unfortunate he had to leave

I couldn’t enter a room while he was there, and most of all was scared that if he approached me and I rejected his advances, and he continued pushing….

If I told the men at the gathering but they would not understand and insist (as they did) that he was just clumsily trying to make his feelings known, and if it was triggering emotions in me perhaps I need to deal with them (as I have been told many times)

I’ve been told over and over again John is someone they had empathy with, because like all of us he just wants sex but uses inappropriate language like pussy and we need to see past the language used

Over and over again when upset and angry I have been talked down, told it is my personal issue I need to deal with in faerie space that I am triggered. That I choose the way I want to see things. I found whenever I was upset or angry I felt treated not like a victim of abuse who felt unsafe but a woman getting herself all worked up over something insignificant I should ‘get over’, and men wanting to win the intellectual argument rather than showing any empathy with how I might have felt

I’ve been told it is not a safe space because women cannot expect to come to gatherings and not be triggered. That should not be a reason for men to use to say men who behave inappropriately towards women should stay to be ‘healed’ Or that men ‘s judgement over how I heal from abuse and feel safe or respond when I am not feeling safe should override my own

I am very concerned angry and upset about people feeling more concerned about proving their ability as men to heal others, and demanding what experience people should have or emotions they should express when experiencing aggressive behaviour or violence. That this ability has become more important than acceptance of those who have experienced it.

I thought faerie space was supposed to be about acceptance of feelings not denial of them and I feel strongly that was not my experience at this gathering regarding this incident

Thank you for writing the blog post and supporting the ability to feel safe and express feelings of unsafety

I just needed to express how I felt

Rachel

~~~~~~~

I’ve had some men express that they feel ‘inappropriate touch’ and ‘harassment’ is a more ‘normalised’ part of gay male culture than hetero culture, and men develop tougher skins

Which I find concerning on several levels. To me it was clear the behaviour at the gathering was predatory behaviour and involved an individual not respecting the consent of others

Regardless of gender I think that’s an issue that should be taken seriously in itself

I object to the word tougher skins. Its particularly irritating in that I spent the last two years working with people with disabilities two of whom are gay / bisexual men who were abused as children. The consequences of this are quite evident psychologically and in relationships. They are vulnerable men and I would not say they have tougher skins

I find it quite insensitive; people of all genders might have situations that make them feel more vulnerable or unsafe and it should be OK to address that

And if touch without consent or ‘harassment’ is a normal part of gay culture does that make it ok?

I find comments like that frankly dangerous and put me off bringing vulnerable adults to a gathering as well

I also don’t think the people saying these things know the difference between something making you feel a little uncomfortable or something really feeling unsafe and traumatising

It irritates me now some men are putting gay men on a pedestal ‘oh we are just somehow tougher / better able to deal with it than women’

Which is not just disrespectful to women its really disrespectful to so many vulnerable men who struggle with this sort of thing. I’ve done some work with homeless and disabled people and can assure these people how many struggle with consequences of things like this

If it’s normalised in culture for those who haven’t processed trauma I can’t imagine that it helps much.

Rachel

Does the world change when you close your eyes?

Dear great spirit – I offer gratitude for your guidance and total removal of nice predictable patterns!

Just as I was feeling comfortable in having read and followed the “solstice script” around my thoughts, feelings and emotions, this year you, of course, re-wrote it.

I was expecting a slight hiccup at the start before moving in to warm, joyous connection, sensuality and rising energies, culminating in cosmic-orgasmic eruptions around the fire.

I got tumultuous fits of cynicism to get past, coldness to learn to love, connections that felt confusing to me with energy flows that seemed random and awkward at times.

What I wanted, what I sought to create, what I felt must happen – it was as elusive as ice upon a fire.

Yet I feel I am learning – something around “choice”; that sometimes there is no point getting stressed out or worked up around having to decide this or that. More and more it seems that for me at least, choice is actually a misrepresented thing; a presumptive thought that “ME” can decide to do or not do, to go or not go, to act or not act. The reality is that I am in service to spirit and the “choices” are already there.  Thinking I can say yes or no makes no sense much like deciding to choose not to see the heard of elephants that is stampeding towards you; pretending that the great hole you have just fallen in to isn’t there; kidding yourself that you are stone dry when you take a shower…

Now back away from nature and from faerie energy, I notice myself falling back in to that crater of my habits, of my addictions, of my lack of being able to feel the loving connection of all and everything.

BUT

Sitting here, as I look back, great Spirit is slowly letting me re-read my solstice script. It’s beginning to seem that those 10 days under the energy of the Torr were the abridged summation of my life.

I have “wants”; I have “desires”; I have need to “control”; I have lack of self-belief; I have cynicism; I find it hard to trust others…

I cling to the idea that I have to make choices and the fate and flow of the universe hangs from every one of those decisions ….

I dragged myself in to the gathering at the start and I ran away from it at the end and I see it is so easy for me to let the cold and wet grow in my sole and let the love, the dancing, the sharing, the connection, the vulnerability, the holding – the faerie spirit – fade and die.

I can “choose” to let that happen but of course it won’t actually since deep down the good is still there, waiting to resurface at the next gathering – so my choice is just a closing of my eyes, a denying of what is there.

Keeping your eyes open when you feel tired is hard; Seeing what you don’t want to see is painful.

Perhaps the solution is to embrace spending time with Captain Caffeine, with Molly Mandy and with others?

But the message seems clear – those elephants will keep on coming even if my eyes are closed!

Snail – June 2016

Does the world change...
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In the wake of Orlando, what do ‘safety’ and ‘inclusivity’ really mean?

Personal reflections on what happened when a couple of faeries were asked to leave the summer solstice gathering

by Lulu Luna

Most of the faeries at the summer gathering at Paddington Farm this year will be aware of what happened on Sunday 19th June. A number of complaints had been made about ‘John’ (the names of the two protagonists have been changed) – a young man who had been brought along by ‘George’, both of whom were staying in an adjoining campsite. Unable to ignore the unease building in himself, organiser Ananga – backed up by Bright Eyes – bravely asked John to leave. John then became angry and threatened violence in a manner which concerned both Ananga and Bright Eyes enough not to wish to spend another night in a tent. And in an unprecedented move, they both left the site.

Asking a faerie to leave feels contrary to our ‘inclusive, community’ vibe. But as others pointed out, we are a community built up over time on trust. Earned trust. And although there is some joyful partying, faerie space is not a party. Still, questions were asked as to why this was not a mediated process – why we didn’t sit in a heart circle with John to ‘heal’ what was going on. And why it was necessary to inform the police.

 

Different space, same shit

It was at this point I found myself feeling simultaneously both angry and resigned. I was one of the people who had complained about John. To my knowledge there were five others, four of whom were women, and the other, a man dressed in drag. And there were women unconnected to the faerie gathering who had also been made uncomfortable and who felt threatened by his behaviour.

I had already spent the previous day feeling unsafe in faerie space – something that had never happened before. I started making sure I was never alone. I avoided going to the fire circle in the camping field. I was nervous about walking to my car. (To add insult to injury, this was on the same day that several cis male faeries casually flashed their penises at dinner. They were obviously feeling safe.)

And I was chilled at how easily I accepted the restriction of my movements and my expression. Because you see, this is standard for women. We are expected to make up for the lack of action to protect us from predators. And if we don’t, we are blamed – for the shortness of our skirts, or for walking alone in the dark. So I clicked seamlessly into my role – before Ananga acted.

Canaries in the coal mine

Where women don’t feel safe, that is an early warning sign to act. Women are the canary in the coalmine. Study after study shows that all over the world, on a macro and micro level, the lack of respect for, and the lack of safety of women is both a predictor and indicator of the likelihood of male violence against everyone. In other words, women usually get it in the neck first. This was even true of the Orlando shooter – whose domestic violence record against his female partner was not taken seriously. But the problem is, women’s warnings and complaints are so often not ‘seen’ or heeded until it’s too late.

Even where they are – again, all credit to Ananga and Bright Eyes – men (and yes, it is usually men, because other women have generally experienced the same danger before and know the score) will question whether it was not an ‘over reaction’ that should have been dealt with another way. In this case, another way that would have put the women in the gathering, and the women in the campsite in danger. The infuriating thing is that these same men will often blame women for not having ‘said something’ when something untoward does happen.

At this point, I will pause, because I know you’re saying ‘not all men’ and pointing out that women can be shits too. I agree with you. But the vast majority of violence in the world is committed by men – and even if you don’t agree with that statement, the problem at the gathering had a gendered flavour to it. For that reason, I need to continue putting gender at the heart of what I’m talking about. To ignore it would be to perpetuate the very ‘invisibility’ of women’s voices that I’m highlighting.

Safety

In faerie space we talk about shared values. Community. Honesty. Vulnerability. Support. Freedom to be ourselves. And yes, we all love a drag dress up as well as ritual and celebration. I know these are precious things. But beneath them is something even more precious. I’m talking about safety. Without safety, we cannot be free to have any of these things.

Too often, when faeries say ‘safety’ we mean emotional safety. How can we have become so complacent as to ignore the dangers to our own physical safety – less than a week after the Orlando shooting? How can we hold a minute’s silence in the town for the victims, and not see someone with precisely the shooter’s psychology in our own midst? How does that kind of disconnect happen? Well, I’ll tell you how.

Inclusivity

‘Inclusivity’ is a lovely concept, but we haven’t thought it through. Instead we’ve taken the easy route. Inclusivity, this solstice, seems to have meant ‘inviting anyone and everyone to the gathering and not throwing them out’. It is inclusivity and safety for those outside our circle, without looking at our inclusivity and safety within the circle first. And this fluffy definition of inclusivity has disconnected some of us from our very sensible instincts.

By contrast, real inclusivity starts from within. And it involves more pain than I think many faeries are willing to admit. Because if you’re going to include people, you have to take their experience, history and context into account. Which means you can’t sit there in your ‘white, male, cis, ‘out and proud’, able-bodied’ reality, pretending that nobody else’s reality exists, so that you don’t have to make any effort to understand their worldview and what is happening for them. You have to actually learn about who they are, and what they’ve come from – and that takes time, effort and humility. More importantly, you have to make actual adjustments, both to your attitude and to your facilities. And before you object, remember it’s they that usually have to make adjustments to a world completely geared to you, all the bloody time.

The faerie blind spot

Is this really an issue? Well, let’s face it – by sheer number, most Albion faeries are cis male. And that has implications. It means that faerie space is geared to cis males, just as wider society is. This is a particular problem with gay men. Straight men have to learn about how unsafe the world is for women – yes, even in Britain in broad daylight – because they date and marry them. Gay men are often allowed to remain oblivious.

I know that for many of you, your first reaction here will be that you’ve never heard that women feel unsafe. Well, we don’t mention it, because we get shot down in flames because of your denial, when we do. I have seen groups of women hastily change the subject – after talking about safety – when a male approaches the group.

We don’t want to hear ‘Well you should’ve… [add smart alec 20/20 hindsight suggestion of choice here]’ for the millionth time. We don’t want to be victim-blamed by a group of blind, tone deaf people who have the privilege of ignoring what we live with every day, and be effectively told that WE are responsible for policing dangerous men, so that no one else has to act.

And if you’re one of the ‘good guys’, you won’t ever see it happening either. Because most of the creeps and the dangerous men who intimidate us aren’t stupid. They’ll wait until you’re gone before they start threatening us. Fortunately, John was a rare exception. Bright Eyes saw him acting strangely. But I wonder what would have happened if he’d cosied up to the organisers and menaced the women behind their backs as usually happens? (This is not a slight on Bright Eyes and Ananga – I’m sure they would have acted responsibly anyway. I’m just highlighting how difficult it is to believe women about an abuser, when your experience of them is that they’re a ‘great bloke’… And that’s exactly why they cosy up to you.)

‘Still don’t believe me, huh?

Women face danger every day of their lives. On the street, in pubs, on buses, in the workplace, in their homes. Effectively, we live in an open prison, because we are the ones who have to ‘police’ our behaviour when our safety isn’t taken seriously and we are disbelieved and blamed. Everywhere, we are insulted, threatened and assaulted – even, and especially by, the people who we should be able to trust. And this starts in public spaces from the time that we begin growing breasts.

I want those of you with penises who are unaware, to hear this. If you sit down to actually ask the apparently un-traumatised ‘normal’ women you know – and they’re willing to honour you with their confidence – you will hear a litany of half-forgotten assaults, threats, harassment, near misses or actual rapes. I myself experienced sexual abuse in my home from both my parents, and other family members and family friends. But outside the home I was also assaulted on the tube in full and correct school uniform, groomed and groped by a male teacher (and blamed by the headmaster for not ‘doing something about it’) and harassed, groped and threatened by other male strangers countless times, all before I was 18. I bet you’d never have guessed that, huh?

And it has not stopped. My drink has been drugged at a fetish munch and my concerns ignored by the organiser. I have been called a prostitute by my boss as a ‘joke’ in front of other members of staff for daring to ask a question. I have been menaced on buses in broad daylight. I have had my breasts grabbed in the street. And going into a pub and being propositioned to be some old, drunk bloke’s ‘submissive Asian wife’ happens regularly, like clockwork. This is just what has happened in my 40s by the way. The worst thing about it is, I consider myself lucky that I’ve experienced nothing worse as an adult. And, that I can’t tell you most of what has happened because it’s so common now, it’s like wallpaper for me. Always there. You almost stop noticing or remembering the minute after you’ve escaped.

For the men who might think I’m just unlucky, you’ll find this story repeated over and over at the Everyday Sexism Project website and on Twitter under the hashtag #YesAllWomen. Take a minute to look at these sites. It is harrowing. And it is every single woman you know. What you’ll realise is that the world in which you fear violence for being visibly queer, is the same one in which we fear violence for being female. Only in our case, we are scapegoated and blamed for not ‘controlling’ our attackers more effectively. (Yeah right…like a long skirt is going to deter a man who’s convinced that raping a woman is the only way to prove his masculinity. I wanted to insert a ‘sarcasm’ emoticon here, but there isn’t one.)

We are fighting the same fight

What flabbergasts me about gay men that don’t see the problems women have with safety, or who don’t place any importance on the issue, is that we’re fighting the same enemy. Men who hate women, also hate what they perceive as ‘femininity’ in gay and queer men. That’s why they attack them.

And something that I think most gay men haven’t twigged, is that the very important legal changes that heroic LGBT activists have been able to effect in the last 50 years, are built on the foundation of the cultural ‘sea change’ that feminists have fought for. These may be straight women who have no interest in gay rights per se. But over and over and over, what they have done is loosened gender straightjackets to the point where most men are now able to accept and cultivate their feminine sides. To a significant degree, they have pricked the balloon of toxic masculinity that sought to annihilate ‘queerness’ or ‘campness’. They have been the ‘worms’ tilling the soil in which your legal rights were planted. And without them, I doubt you’d have achieved those rights to the same degree.

So – and I’m talking to the gay and queer men in our midst here − the concerns of women in general may apparently have nothing much to do with you. But they’re important because our struggle is connected with yours. And I have deliberately avoided saying ‘we’re your mothers, your sisters, your cousins etc.’ because frankly, we shouldn’t only qualify for your support because we have some sort of relationship to you. No, we deserve your support because we are worthy of safety and respect as a group in our own right. But sadly, at the moment, women (both gay, queer and straight – and whether you really intended this or not) are getting the message from the wider gay community that because you don’t want to fuck us, our rights don’t matter to you, and you can’t be bothered to learn about what we’re facing.

And so, it is with finely chequered feelings that I make the following point about what you stand to gain if you do support us. As I’ve said, the kinds of men who attack gay men, are those who cannot reconcile with the feminine within them. This hatred is derived from their fear of women – fear of being ‘like’ women, even if it’s only in the matter of being sexual with, or being penetrated by men. Consequently, when you pay attention to how women are perceived and treated, you make queer and gay men significantly safer. But to do that, you’ve got to actually listen to women, respect their superior experience with the issue and act on what they suggest.

So what actually happened with John?

Within 30 seconds of meeting me, John stared at me as if he wanted to eat me, and asked me if I’d give him a massage. George, the older ‘Daddy’ that he was with, said he was gay. John vehemently denied it. George pushed the point over and over, to John’s obvious fury. About an hour afterwards I found him aiming a laser light at me, much like the ‘sight’ on a high tech gun. He stared at me for minutes at a time on other occasions throughout that day too, and I found myself avoiding him and warning others about him. My instinct told me he was one of the most dangerous men I’d ever encountered.

Later, I found out that he had treated another female faerie at the solstice gathering in much the same way, and that he had been rude to one of the male faeries in drag. He had also been seen seated and waiting by the nearest toilet to the campsite to accost the female campers using it.

I have heard people comment that John’s friend George either couldn’t or wouldn’t ‘control’ his behaviour. What I saw was George actually making him worse, by whipping him up with comments about his being gay, all apparently for ‘laughs’. It was a powder keg situation.

And what was going on with him?

I do not know John’s story. What I do have, is a strong impression based on long experience of these sorts of incidents, and a number of likely guesses. It was obvious from his manner that he intensely resented being thought gay. My guess is that he was ‘gay for pay’ under severe duress – perhaps because he wanted a visa, was destitute, or for some other reason. Of course if I’m right, this was systemic abuse, and very sad. I wish the faeries could have helped him. But talking to him, it was crystal clear that he could not listen to a bunch of queer people. That his was a belief system in which being gay was so unthinkable, that he’d have done anything to prove himself otherwise. Maybe anything, up to and including raping a woman on site. Or perhaps, violently attacking a more ‘feminine’ man.

Also it was clear that John was from an ethnic minority – and no, it is not racist to notice that. For me personally, this was important information because it made me feel even more unsafe. That’s because, as an Asian woman, I am likely to draw the ire of Asian men who see me acting in an ‘untraditional’ manner. ‘Corrective rape’ is one of their ‘punishments’. And because I know that black men often have a ‘thing’ about Asian women. If you’re likely to be attacked, that is important information to acknowledge.

But still people objected…

Some faeries objected to John being asked to leave, even after all this. I know we like to ‘include’ people. To talk things through. And that’s a good instinct. But sometimes those people forfeit that privilege. Threatening the women on site meant that John did not deserve the courtesy of mediation with the faeries – and I do not know why that wasn’t obvious to the people who objected to him being asked to leave. Because the safety of the people you know and trust and love – and whom you have a duty to – obviously comes before being ‘inclusive’ to a creepy stranger who is resisting help.

John was a man in queer space that was clearly conflicted about either his sexuality or sexual practices – and very willing to take that conflicted-ness out on others. How can some of us be so ‘airy faerie’ as not to notice John’s psychological similarity to the Orlando shooter in the same bloody week? Why were those faeries effectively asking the women on site to quash their well-honed instincts and ignore the danger to themselves? What a fucking betrayal!

Some people objected to the organisers calling the police

Now, I’m under no illusion that the Somerset police are angels. I know of incidents where they have treated homeless women in the area with abominable neglect and disdain. I know the police are enemies to many queer people. But consider what would have happened if the organisers hadn’t called them?

Logging an ‘incident’ with the police means they will react faster if a threatening person shows up again. John’s threats led Ananga and Bright Eyes to fear he’d turn up in the dead of night with a knife. What if they hadn’t called the police?

What if he had come back an hour later and raped or stabbed someone? What would they have said if the police or a judge asked why they hadn’t reported his previous threatening behaviour? Would you feel they’d taken sufficient care of your safety if they hadn’t reported him and as a result you were now seriously injured? Where would your ‘joyous faerie space’ be then?

Do you think your fear of the police justifies another faerie’s injuries and trauma or even death? And if you’d acted as if your fear was more important, and persuaded Ananga and Bright Eyes not to call them, wouldn’t it be reasonable for that injured or dead faerie to feel you’d sold them down the river for your own self-interest? Just finally, do you think you would have been able to avoid the police if a serious or fatal incident actually had taken place? Or would you simply have expected a rape and/or stab victim to ‘forget about it’ in order to protect you?

If I sound angry, it’s because I am

Look, I’m used to people in general being blind to the physical dangers I face because I’m female and Asian. That hurts me, but it doesn’t surprise me. What fucking infuriates me however, is when ‘inclusive’ faeries talking about ‘safe’ space, throw me under the bus.

Inclusivity and safety are life and death issues for me – not some emotional ‘cherry on the cake’. Part of my definition of inclusivity and safety is that you need to take heed when a minority group – like women – consistently raise the alarm. And you need to believe, understand their context and act promptly to protect them, without worrying about the ‘hurt’ feelings of a dangerous person or some un-thought-through ethic. We need this, and we deserve it. And, as a bonus, doing this will actually keep the cis queer and gay men among us safer as well.

A new definition of inclusivity and safety

Beyond that, the faeries cannot call themselves ‘inclusive’ without doing this. Inclusivity doesn’t just mean treating everyone different as if they’re ‘one of us’. It also means regarding their needs as equal to ours while taking the trouble to learn about how life is different for them and why. And adapting faerie space accordingly – even if it means you don’t get everything your own bloody way.

That takes real work – and resisting the temptation to think of the white, cis, male, able-bodied experience as ‘universal’ and the only ‘credible’ or ‘expert’ one, as many of us unconsciously do. It means realising you don’t know everything, actively asking the right questions of people you don’t really relate to, and then shutting up, listening and believing. And making concrete changes that you regard as a pain in the neck, because others really need them simply to feel safe and included.

If we don’t continually do this work, our inclusivity is just lip service. We’ll tacitly crowd more diverse faeries out with our attitudes and behaviour, and see them quietly drop away, until we wake up one morning and ask ourselves why the faeries are so goddamned white and male? (‘Do you know?’ ‘Gosh, no I don’t. We’ve always been very welcoming… Why don’t they like us?’)

And making a ‘safe’ space means acknowledging the very real ways that any of us – minorities especially − can be in physical danger at times. This is the lesson from Orlando. March up and down in Glastonbury as much as you like. That’s easy. But remember that honouring that lesson properly in order to keep faeries safe, is worth 1000 drag vigils.

A personal P.S.

The opinions expressed here are my own and do not in any way constitute an official statement from the Albion Faeries.

I don’t usually write this kind of blog. As a woman, what I say is questioned far more than a man would be in my place. His pronouncements are generally taken on trust. We may be faeries, but we’re all socialised ‘out there’ in the big, bad, sexist world. I’m all too aware that the comments section on a blog like this – written by a woman – will possibly attract denial or insults. I fear I may even alienate the group sufficiently that I will never really feel welcome again.

In this case, I’ve been brave because I don’t want female bodied faeries to be in danger like that a second time. And yes, before you ask, not writing blogs like this is one more way in which I ‘police’ my behaviour as a woman in public space to protect myself.

What I ask, is that if you’re a cis male faerie reading this, you give me some credit for knowing what I’m talking about. Let yourself experience my world. See through my eyes. And try to care more concretely than via mere platitudes and hugs that are ‘oh-so-easy-to-give’, for the actual faeries that are different from you in your midst.

Just finally, thank you to both the male and female faeries that ‘got’ all this immediately and supported Ananga and Bright Eyes, both at the time John was asked to leave, and later when the issue was discussed after dinner. You have helped to keep me safe.

Loss reminds us of what we have

Solstice was fast approaching and again, I found myself looking forward to Glastonbury, the gathering and our solstice bonfire. That said: arriving at Paddington Farm was bittersweet this time round as someone special wasn’t going to be with us any more.

On April 8th, our Faerie Tribe lost a unique friend who took us to heart and delighted in our magic and sense of community. As many of you already know, I’m talking of Suki Key who passed unexpectedly from an acute kidney infection. She was an all too youthful 65.

I first met Suki in the camping kitchen at last year’s Solstice Gathering. Having both retired and divorced she had sold her house, somewhere in Lincolnshire I think, and begun a quite remarkable odyssey. She was living in a large bell tent on the Farm’s second camping field (complete with sofas and log burner). At some stage, she was planning to ship out to India, fulfilling her own spiritual quest whilst travelling and doing some charity work.

We initially crossed paths when Suki saw me doing a tarot reading but she became doubly fascinated when she realised I’d designed my own cards. This was our first common ground for Suki’s son was an amazing artist with his own successful design studio. I also discovered the best way to make her face light up with pride was to get her onto the subject of her children.

My experience wasn’t unique. Suki had connected with lots of us during the course of the gathering and I think she loved every minute of our mischief and our colourful sense of fun. She was a tiny, willow like woman who reminded me of children blowing bubbles. Bubbles themselves shimmer and sparkle with an astonishing spectrum of colour yet they are delicate and fragile, vanishing in an instant. They encapsulate all the innocent joy of childhood and that’s why they remind me of her. Suki was that rare combination of age earned wisdom and childlike wonder. God knows how she’d done it but she’d managed to retain her youthful sparkle in a way that most of us can only marvel at, even though we were younger.

She re-appeared at our September gathering. Now lodging in Glastonbury for the winter months, she’d checked our dates and made sure she was back up at the Farm to come and visit us. It was a joy to see her and I still smile when I think back to our long conversation in the Farmhouse living room. Better still, I remember her moving around from person to person, watching their faces light up as she sprinkled her own particular brand of faerie dust around the room.

For all of this, my fondest memories will be of our last meeting at January’s Imbolc gathering. Once again she visited but this time she came laden with foil wrapped packages of gluten free chocolate brownies. She’d known we were coming and had set to baking. India was now looming on the horizon and she wondered if any of us had contacts with aid workers or volunteers heading for Calais. Her bell tent had served its purpose and she wanted it to go to the refugee camp where it would give someone in need a good home. She said she’d return to the farm later that evening, to join us around the fire for some drumming.

Sure enough, as dusk was falling she drove back to the Farm and that small red car, cluttered to overflowing with all things useful (rather like Moominmamma’s handbag) pulled onto the car park and a slightly breathless Suki came looking for volunteers to help her empty the boot. To my incredulity, the boot was stacked high with drums, apparently gifted to her some months previously.

“I’ve always wanted to try these!” she told me with a beaming smile.

Suki’s drum collection was temporarily added to the Faerie drum collection and I sat next to her for the rest of the evening while we let the fire and the rhythm hypnotise us. I was aware of the circle, of friends, of music and of the joy of being alive. I think Suki was too.

She came to say goodbye the following morning, giving many of us sticks of her favourite incense as a parting gift. I still have mine, as something inside wouldn’t let me burn it straight away. I didn’t know it would be the last time I would see her and the incense stick remains on my bookshelf. Sometimes I’ll breathe its fragrance to remind me of her. I may even bring it to a gathering and offer it to the fire as an act of remembrance when I’m ready to let go of it. For now it remains as a reminder of a special spirit who flew briefly into my life and left a trail of sparkle behind her for a short while.

The loss of Suki has reminded me just how important our Faerie friends are. There are many of them, Tanya, Michael, Robert, Leila, Tiffany and Holly at Paddington Farm for instance, who think of us as their favourite visitors. There’s also John Clarke at Featherstone who makes us feel that his home is our home whenever we stay there. These are but to name a few. They may not be directly part of the tribe but they enable us, celebrate us and even love us. We also love them and the loss of one friend has reminded me once more to cherish the others.

Fly away joyfully dear Suki; for I know you’ll light up wherever it is you journey on to. For us, we’ll celebrate you but we also missed seeing you at the Farm this summer.

Brighteyes.

Walking the Labyrinth by Cunty.

I see the path I am on, the behaviour I exhibit, the words I offer and receive. I feel the rush of elation with one step, the heavy burden of shame with the next.

This is achingly familiar, from the instinct to pull away to the vulnerability of being open-hearted and loving. The twists and turns of emotions at a Faerie gathering are dizzying and mercurial. I stumble on, trusting that the path will lead me to the centre as much as I trust in the process of the heart circle.

It feels as if I’m passing back a way I’ve already come and yet it is different, leading deeper into the Mystery. In between the stumbling I also feel myself about to leap in flight. It is exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure.

I have offered my id as a sacrifice to Dionysus/Aphrodite and I am Maenad, a raving one, destroying all in my path, invulnerable and prophesying as my bleeding soles take one more step, just one more, always one more. Every touch, kiss, embrace fuels me still, pushing me further on, although I have long forgotten the question I held as I began the journey.

This bone-shearing, raucous, playful, chaotic, whimsical pilgrimage of queerness, connection, vulnerability and resilience is all I can remember, all I can taste, and all I want or need.

The gnarled dance of one who doesn’t dance, equal parts Salome, Kate Bush and Baba Yaga, cannot stop of be undone. It is the search for sustenance like the root of a tree, a tendril burrowing deeper and further down into the earth, reaching out, reaching down, and reaching inward.

Were I to see from above, if I remembered such a place, I would see the shape of the labyrinth, leading me home to myself. With such perspective I might find comfort in correspondences;

Seven coils, laid out around the centre

Seven paths, inward and outward

Seven days, seven nights of the gathering

Seven chakras, from root to crown

Seven planetary bodies, seen with the human eye

Seven gates, as Inanna passed through to the Underworld

Seven seasons, as Buffy lived (and died twice) through

But thought and reason elude me, for I am lost in the movement, ever onwards, to the centre. One path to tread, unicursally leading me to the point where there is an ending of sorts. Almost as soon as the awareness of an ending creeps in, I find myself there. I stand in the heart of the labyrinth.

The diary that I have kept for this gathering is a mirror standing tall, implacable in its cold reflection. As my breathing stills and thought once again permeates my emotional being, I am presented with the manifestation of myself, my selves, my other.

It is the Minotaur, the bull-headed beast of raging need and mistrust. The creature imprisoned, fed on the sacrifice of youths’ bodies. Asterion, the shamed one. It takes everything I have to hold still, to look him in the eye, to not back down, to not turn and run.

With each word I read from my journal I note another detail of the monster. How he is “too intense” (how many times I have been told that!). How clumsy and unseemly he is. How territorial he has become, even in his solitude and how his insatiable desire and longing are too much for any mortal being to gaze upon.

Every confession of vulnerability I have recorded is another strike of Theseus’ cock-like club, each declaration of connection and love another stab of his phallic sword until the beast lies fallen. Broken and bleeding, sides heaving and sweat slicking his hair, his breathing ragged. How can I not love him now, as I love broken things or broken people I can heal and thus prove my worth to? I pull him to me and lament all the hurt, the misunderstanding, the senseless anger, the years lost now.

When this passes, as all things do, I look around and register the change in light, the transience of time and also the acceptance of what has been. The crumpled body has evaporated like a heavy dream, though streaks of blood and filth remain.

As I return to my other life, the life between gatherings, I find myself back in the coils of the labyrinth, this time moving outwards. I apply reason and consideration to the experiences I have undergone, to the changes that are wrought in me.

As my feet retread the pathway back out, I assimilate the loves and lessons into myself, into my rational and irrational mind. I make a point of being kind with myself, of allowing myself the chance to do a little better every time I make this journey. I return with messages to and from myself, from Spirit and from the Gods.

I wrap concepts into words, the way I would package fragile ornaments for a move. Placing each one with care where I can retrieve it later and still find it whole. I recall and honour those whom I shared the journey with, shared moments with and shared a bed with.

Soon enough I find myself stepping out from the labyrinth, back again into the other-realm. I do not look back over my shoulder. I honour the path, the coils, the centre and the lessons learned as I take a breath and take another step.

 

Sacred Vulnerability by Cunty.

At Midsummer in that most magical place we gathered. Under azure skies of a week’s eternal summer we came together to speak words of empowerment, to engage in acts of healing and to find our once-dentorian voices yet again. We danced, massaged, opened our hearts and gave our darkest secrets to a circle of welcoming arms, then threw our shame into the fire.

 

Sacred Vulnerability is what I have seen and felt in a circle of Faeries. As the talisman passes into the hands of another of my brethern I can see his spirit move deeper into the room, I sense the rest of us draw a collective breathe as we make room for his shining heart, as we bear witness to the shamanic journey he undertakes into the Otherworld of his hidden truths and emotions. We challenge our own hearts to stay open and connected, ready to be moved and reminded of our own wounds and joys, shames and successes. It seems such a simple truth that only when we are all open-hearted can we manifest that transformative magic that is such an intrinsic aspect of Faerie space.

 

Outside of the circle, there are ripples and echoes of this Sacred Vulnerability. I see it by the campfire as one young faerie runs his hand on the back of the head of one who will weep such tears when they part days later, like a first love. I hear it in the voice of an older faerie who talks to me of his initial discomfort of being there, of how he is slowly learning how to open up again. I feel it rise in my own chest as I ask another of us to share my bed that final night of our gathering, choosing to step beyond my own deeply embedded fear of rejection.

 

In my mind I am reminded of the Sumerian tale of the Descent of Inanna. As she travels into the underworld there are seven gates and at each of these she must remove another item that represents her power and position, until she walks through that final gate naked and resplendent, simply and completely her own self and being.

 

This to me in Sacred Vulnerability. No hierarchy, no titles, no logos, no pretence, no shame, no connections, no ego. This is the Temple of our Collective Souls. They must be tended and worshipped, cared for and offered up. There will be times we will act as the priestesses of that place, guiding others with a measured and experienced hand. We may find ourselves paupers and pilgrims, seeking answers and solace there. Perhaps other times we merely sweep the floors or find ourselves the sacrifice on the altar.

 

When we act in service to our own Spirit, when we offer respite to another’s, when we find the courage to abandon the masks, to bring forward kindness for both Self and Other knowing they are not separate – we take a step closer to shedding that frog skin, to becoming our own Healers and Guides.

 

The real challenge is to embrace that role when we are in conflict with our community, our lovers and ourselves. To acknowledge that everyone, including us, has the right to belong without undergoing the burdensome task of fitting in.

 

These are the lessons I learned in those seven dazzling days of summer, that I carry with me and that have changed me irrevocably.

 

With Love

 

Cunty