Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hello 2014

Goodbye, 2013.  It was a good year for lesbians in the US, with marriage equality established in so many new states (starting with Maryland), and with DOMA being struck down by the Supreme Court.  And it was a good year for me and Marisol, as we got married for the third and probably the last  time. 

I know a lot of other lesbian couples who’ve experienced multiple marriages.  And there are still a lot of my friends who are experiencing the schizophrenia of being married federally but not locally.  These are the long-time couples who leave their Florida or Georgia homes and take a little vacation in New York City, announcing their marriages obliquely on facebook. 

 There are still other rights and protections that we gay people need, but marriage rights are a huge piece of the puzzle.  After all, what sets us apart is our choice of partner.  Of course, gender identity questions are connected to this as well, but hey, they’re connected to everything.  To me, gender stereotypes and misogyny are the most basic sources of social dysfunction, along with racism.   

 But what makes you gay is the romantic, emotional and sexual connection to someone matching your gender, regardless of who you each are as individuals.  And so when this attachment is seen as legitimate, we’ve won this particular battle. 

 And, yes, I know that the level of suffering has risen for gay people in Nigeria, Uganda and Russia.  I know that same-sex relationships must still be hidden in many parts of the world, as well as in parts of the U.S.  There are still people who don’t dare to love, for fear of losing their jobs, alienating their communities, or being turned out from their families.   But still I’m heartened by the progress we’ve made, enormously heartened.  And I say that 2013 has brought us further along, further towards winning this battle, than any year in U.S. history.

 Love is an enormous healing force.  When humans have the right to love – without being mistreated or harassed around it, without having to deny or hide it  – then there’s a rush of well-being that travels like a soft wind, and affects everyone, no matter their political stance.  Unhappy people are unhappy parents, children, siblings, neighbors, workers, drivers, shoppers, cops, teachers, lawyers, doctors, and salespeople -  and if you’re next in line, you may be the person who gets the brunt of that misery.   There is really no down side to providing safe passage for love. 

 And what about 2014?  How does the coming year look for gay people, and for all people?  

 Neptune continues in its own sign -  the gentle, spiritual sign Pisces, where it’s been since early in 2012 -  and this is about blurring boundaries and erasing divisions between people.  I think Neptune’s sign has had a lot to do with the burgeoning acceptance of the right to love freely.  Historically, gay relationships have required a great expertise in sleight of hand, and Neptune is the planet of magicians and shape-shifters. 

 So I think these trends will continue, and perhaps the most homophobic countries will experience a gentling of attitudes as 2014 goes on.  Neptune in Pisces also indicates a rise in spiritual awareness, and this has nothing to do with established religion.  Pisces has more to do with the barefoot saint, the holy ones who see beyond the sharp angles of the material world.  Look at our current Pope, who stresses the truly spiritual qualities of humility and acceptance, rather than the power, control and stern judgment associated with the office. 

However, there are definitely some hard edges to the coming year.  The changes begun in 2011 and 2012 will continue to manifest, sometimes in abrupt and controversial ways, as the Uranus/Pluto square is still strong in the coming year.  This gives a revolutionary urge to dismantle existing structures. This breaking-down process can doesn’t always lead to any kind of liberation, and sometimes the effects are tragic.  And sometimes it means that the existing powers find stronger defenses for their corporate and governmental institutions. 

Uranus is in Aries, the sign of individuality and direct action,  while Pluto's sign, Capricorn, stands for the power of government and corporations.  So there’s a David and Goliath feel to the situation, with the brave individual and the powerful giant. 

On the one hand, it’s the primeval struggle between father and son for power, a basic theme in patriarchy.  On a broader level, it’s the process of dismantling all tight, limiting structures for newer and freer systems.  The danger is that in a violent reach for power, only the strongest survive, and then the new systems they create tend to be more repressive than before. 

 In the world we live in, the US is seen by many as a behemoth, an arrogant and unconscious power.  This encourages young men to become the Hero of the story, to become David, even when the sacrifice is the ultimate one.   This is when it becomes obvious that both the brave individual hero and the giant institution are male entities, and so this is a father/son fight.  We all know that more women in the picture corresponds to less posturing, and moves us all closer to compromise and peace. 

 Is the US a behemoth, an ugly giant?  This country’s saving grace is the ebb and flow of democracy, which prevents it from becoming totally calcified.  With this, it becomes more responsive to the voices of women, people of color, gay people, and immigrants.  However, it incurs the wrath of those white men who call themselves the Tea Party, and who would rather drown democracy than share power with those who are unlike them.   Like the terrorists throwing themselves against the walls of this institution, they are also funded by men who maintain a strong but rigid structure.

 Where is the true individualism?  Where do we see it?  It doesn’t show up much in the newspapers, or in the shifting balance between the larger powers.  We will have to look closely to see it in 2014, but it will be there.  And of course, as always, the best place to look is within.

And for gay people, as we become freer to love, we are freer within ourselves.  What do we do with this freedom?  What do we do with this newfound strength?  It can be such a relief to blend in, to be like everyone else, to be accepted, and we may not feel the need to go out and get involved in any kind of social or political struggle.  And yet, as long as we live in a world of dueling patriarchies, none of us are safe. 

The challenge in 2014 will be to recognize how much our lives are woven into certain larger structures, while at the same time recognizing that constant spark of freedom within ourselves.  We have the right to think for ourselves, and to act for ourselves.  But in everything we do, interconnecting structures are formed, undermined, and formed again.  Let us do this consciously. 

And so happy new year!  May 2014 be a year of peace, of growing understanding between us all.  May we spread our love around.  May we love many.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Lights and Action

Here in the northern hemisphere, the seasonal celebrations do make sense.  It’s scary when the sun begins to disappear, and so people need to compensate with brightness and glitter.   I can imagine the conversation going like this, as those early Europeans hung out in front of their caves, whittling goddess figures with bits of flint.

“Is it just my imagination, or is the sun leaving us a little earlier every day?”

“OMG, you’re right!  Have we offended it, do you think?”

“Maybe we should get out some shiny things that look like the sun.  If it sees pictures of itself, it will want to stay longer.” 

 “Great idea.  I’ll put some torches up in the trees, and you go get some iridescent rocks.”

 We still do this.  The effort gets more and more frenzied until we get to the winter solstice, and then, miracle of miracle, it works.  The sun takes note of our homage to its brilliance, and begins to stay longer. 

This is also the season dedicated to the two-thousand-year-old sun god, Jesus.  It seems that Jesus was a gentle, peaceful figure for the most part, with a message about forgiving everyone and not owning anything.  In its checkered history, Christianity hasn’t always promoted this approach.   What happens when a religion is embraced by the wealthy and powerful, when it’s used to judge and punish?  It’s corrupted – with less and less of the original poverty, humility and compassion.  

 However, some vestiges of the original Jesus story pop up now and then.  The Pope, for example, said, “Who am I to judge?”  This is not to say that the Pope and I agree on a lot of things, but it’s nice that we are both trying to be less judgmental.  We all know that Jesus was not into casting stones.   I also appreciate the ministers who have been quietly urging their congregations to support and sign up at the government health care website.  I’ve heard that Jesus was into taking care of the sick.

 In our society, there’s a pressure towards excess at this time of year, because we live in a world that equates commercial enterprises with success.  Spiritual practices – including Christianity – can offer a different set of values, ones that are older and more powerful. 

 It’s a contradictory time, partly loud and boisterous, partly quiet and meditative - and that makes sense since the sun is moving through one of the double signs, Sagittarius, and soon Mercury will be there too.  Sagittarius is the centaur - half human and half animal - and this sign is always trying to get away from itself, and concurrently trying to get itself together.  Inner peace and balance are not easy to achieve when the horsy part of yourself is always eager to run, to leap, to chase ecstatically through the fields.  Whenever anything is good, more is better.  Whenever anything is tough, there’s always the temptation to run away.     

 But during the next month, the impulsive fire of Sagittarius is tempered by more watery influences. Water is not as strong as it was in November, but  Saturn, Jupiter and Neptune are still in water signs, so there continue to be a lot of strong feelings.  Intuition is acute, delicate sensibilities more pronounced, and there are deep sympathies that can dissolve the usual divisions between people. 

 A balancing influence during the middle of December is the trine between Jupiter in Cancer and Saturn in Scorpio.   Jupiter expands and Saturn contracts, so these planets have opposite effects most of the time.  They are the two social planets, with Jupiter encouraging social connections, rewarding people for their gifts to the community, while Saturn demonstrates the social limits, and scolds people who flout traditional taboos. 

 This harmonious aspect shows more responsiveness between the two.  When they are in trine, Saturn is less cautious and fearful, and Jupiter less ambitious and extravagant.  They take turns, each allowing the opposite principle to operate.   Jupiter expands until it no longer makes sense to go further, and Saturn contracts until it no longer feels good to guard the limits.   Each rescues the other from extremism.  And so we may see everybody being more reasonable, especially around the time this aspect is exact on December 12. 

 However, this is followed by the full moon on December 17, in the fast-moving signs of Sagittarius and Gemini, on the same day that the rebellious planet Uranus goes direct.  A lot of energy is unleashed at this time.  It’s a time when things can run away, catch on fire, or get hit by lightning, so it’s not the best time to do anything wild and crazy.  If you can stop yourself.     

 And this begins a tumultuous few weeks.  The harmonizing Jupiter/Saturn trine recedes, like a couple of maiden aunts edging away from a murder scene.  And Mars engages with the Uranus/Pluto square.  Mars represents the urge to action, and it’s currently moving through the peace-loving and justice-seeking sign Libra.  Thinking of the pope, I’m moved to ask if we can seek justice without making judgments.  It has been done before.  Think Nelson Mandela.  It requires the ability to forgive, while not forgetting. 

 Even in the idealistic sign and generally moderate sign Libra, though, Mars is forceful.  And it will be leaping into a long-running  war – the Uranus/Pluto square, the conflict between new rebellious forces and old entrenched interests.  Old systems, ways of dividing people based on class, race and gender, are crumbling, and this is mostly a drawn-out process.  But this is one of those times when there’s more and faster movement, and when the resistance is also stronger.  Battle lines will be drawn.   

Mars is going to be in Libra till next spring, since it retrogrades here, and it will engage with the Uranus/Pluto square twice more.  And so the message will be writ large, and then underlined a couple of times.  Mars in Libra asks how we choose to treat each other, how we can cooperate, how we can live peacefully together in this world.  And because it’s Mars, it doesn’t always ask politely.   

These are the questions that come up, loud and clear,  as we move through another solstice, and towards the end of another calendar year.  It’s one of those times when several cycles come together, and these times are always unstable but highly creative.  Mars, as a catalyst, will point unerringly towards the next collective change – and it will be about balancing the scales.