When You Think the Night Has Seen Your Mind: Thoughts on Queers and Astrology by Marty Windahl
As I write this, the sun is in the astrological sign of Gemini. Gemini is known as the sign of the Twins. In the Greek myth associated with this constellation and sign, the twins are two brothers or in some iterations of the tale, lovers–Castor and Pollux. There are several versions of their story, as there are of any story that is told over and over again. In one version the two are inseparable but because they are part God and part human, they must spend half of their time on earth and half their time with the Gods on Mount Olympus. In other versions the two can never be in the same place at the same time. One is always in the heavens and the other on earth.
When my queer identity initially began to crystallize, first in Brazil and then in Iowa, I saw no reflection in the world around me of the feelings that stirred within me. Later, the Internet became an important place for young queers to find community. I missed this opening by a few years and so all I had was an intuition that somewhere existed people who could understand and identify with the feelings I was experiencing. But for much of my adolescence this hope felt both as real and as distant as a star.
In his piece, Why Queers Love Astrology, Christopher J. Lee writes:
Is it by coincidence that astrology is widely practiced amongst queers? And is it by coincidence that those queers who practice astrology do so sarcastically, sometimes, but sometimes earnestly, sincerely, and devotedly?
When I tried to tackle the question of connection between queers and astrology myself, as someone who both practices astrology and is queer, I found the clues leading me in a multitude of directions and not to one specific or tidy answer. I decided to go beyond my own internal questioning and talked to several of my friends who are queer and interact with astrology to varying degrees. I asked them to tell me about the emergence of their queer identity. I was curious if these inquiries would direct me to certain parallels between being queer and astrology. My initial thought was that the correlation between the two has something to do with the origins of our queer identity as a feeling, as something initially intangible and unseen. The emergence of our identities does not depend on dominant society or established science for validation, but instead relies on feelings and is often only corroborated by more feelings, similar to the connection between human psychology and the planets and stars (astrology) which has also remained mostly unsupported or unsubstantiated by science. What I found from the responses I received was confirmation that people’s experiences are as diverse and multi-dimensional as a map of the universe.
The emergence of my queer identity felt tingly. It felt like I had access to an extra sense that most humans are denied, or deny themselves, like discovering you have a superpower! It’s like you just have something that has always been a part of you, maybe something you took for granted, and one day you look around and notice the light bending in a different direction, and that because of this thing, your world isn’t structured quite like everyone else’s. It was very subtle, kind of like when you are at the optometrist, answering “Better 1, or better 2? Better 1? Or better 2?” Until all these tiny shifts in perspective add up to this amazing clarity. Sometimes I felt a bit brave and fearless.
It is not far-fetched to claim a human connection with the stars. This connection has been probed for years, not just by astrology, but by science as well. Physicists have come to rest on the idea that everything, living and otherwise, on our planet began as stardust from the explosion of supernovas billions of years ago. This theory never directed my understanding of the stars, but instead backed up a feeling I had before I was even old enough to understand what a scientific theory was, a feeling that I was a part of the stars and they were a part of me.
I’m still coming out, coming out of all kinds of hiding in new ways every day… That first step is just feeling it out, since it’s always already inside me, it won’t have names yet. It’s a groping around in the dark feeling, something formless, beginning to form in a way I can comprehend it. And then it will probably be something that comes from the outside to jolt me to an understanding that the thing might have a form. Now I’ve seen something that feels similar to what my gropings have taught me is there, hiding…Know it’s collaborative because it’s not someone or some people going somewhere, going away, in a direction that is outthere, it’s outhere. They/we are coming towards the outness, and we are already here for the coming outers to come towards us. And when we come towards the outness we’ve already been welcomed to come. Even people, who don’t think they have any coming out to do, when they say it, welcome those who do, to come too.
I grew up in a spiritual household, but not a religious one. For my birthday one year my grandmother, worried that my parents were raising my brother and I as heathens, sent me a children’s bible. Having had no prior relationship to the bible I saw it as just another book of stories, it came to occupy a space on my shelf alongside a book of Greek Myths and Aesop’s Fables. The story of Adam and Eve did not resonate with me as much as Aesop’s story of The Lion and The Mouse for example. In the story of the Lion and the Mouse, anyone can put themselves in the place of either the lion or the mouse. But the story of Adam and Eve felt punishing, it only seemed to identify the reader with a feeling of shame. Most of the world’s dominant religions have found ways to ostracize queers. But every single person has a need, desire and right to believe in something bigger than themselves. Perhaps one of the reasons astrology is so compelling and part of why it is more easily embraced by queer communities is because it provides another place to project power, one that is neither God nor government, but suggests how we might relate to and interact with both.
One night I came home late and laid down on the couch and felt a wave come over me like I was completely drunk and high…There was a sudden overtaking, not necessarily like a wave maybe more like the way a fever comes over you, like heat in your face and your head and then your body. I had this vision of myself in a former lifetime walking down a beach by myself and I was carrying a stick over both shoulders with shells hanging off them. I asked myself, who was this person? What were their feelings? And I was a genderless person in a long ago aboriginal culture and I was very independent and lived just walking around. The beach I was on stretched for miles pointing north towards Alaska. It is called Rose Spit and for the Haida people it where the world began. I have been there three years ago so I recognized it. But instead of walking out towards the spit (north) this time I was watching this person walking north and I was facing them (looking south). “You were always queer,” this person said to me. “It’s only this lifetime that you had trouble with accepting it.
Astrology is as forgiving as a weather forecast. Most astrologers would never claim a hundred percent accuracy, just as a meteorologist would never say the chance of rain on any given day was 100 percent. Astrology forecasts the astrological conditions we may experience, but empowers people to decide how they use or identify with the information.
I always identified as a Scorpio, meaning that I thought that my crazy libido and sexual relating was from my astrological perspective. I was a very early sexual bloomer and had a lot of sex with guys and thought I had a lot of experience and so felt comfortable and just knew I got it- I understood sex cosmically as a Scorpio. But then, when I came out I felt the discomfort from my non-gay friends and people in my small town, which shamed me a bit. Close friends of mine asked if I had always wanted to have sex with them and things that felt a bit far flung. The implication was that I was lying about my intentions towards them as friends, since now I was gay, meaning that I had no control over my desires (the answer is that I have never secretly pined for any of my straight friends). Once I made that clear, I became the impetuous object for others’ whimsical flings with gay sex, but not really meaning it (like drunk friends trying to kiss me just to see what it was like to ‘be’ gay). To say all this was my sexual Scorpio-ness seemed to fall by the wayside when I realized that maybe I am not as good at gay sex because I came out after I grew a self-consciousness around sex and it seemed quite secondary. Now I very much align my Scorpio self as transformative and protective leaning towards my Virgo north node and Cancer moon and said goodbye to an ultra sexual seamless nature after coming out. Will I ever get it back? Only cosmic transformative time can tell.
Astrology is something in which one can dabble and it is also something in which one can claim expertise. There is as, Lee suggests in his essay, an ability to engage with astrology in a campy way, to not connect with it beyond the gloss provided in a magazine. Astrology doesn’t ask more from a stargazer than they desire to give. It reflects a conversation within the self and puts it in the larger context of our environment and the movement of planets and stars.
My queerness was always irrepressible and very much on the surface. I studied older and more developed queers, sought out mentors, poured over queer core zines and riot grrrl CD inserts. My queer identity was greatly formed through my social interactions. I remember putting myself out there with a very strong identity statement at an early age– spiky crazy hairdo, baby barrettes, masculine attire, a mismatch of cues and signifiers. I wasn’t as sure of myself as I looked, but I somehow figured that faking confidence and self-assurance was a good bet.
There is another easy connection between queerness and astrology that I hinted at above, which is the way astrology accounts for gender. In astrology gender is an attribute, a characteristic. In any given person’s astrology chart gender is indicated within every aspect of their personality. For example someone could have their Venus, feminine planet of love and relationships, in the masculine sign of Aries. In order to interpret what that means in terms of the way that person demonstrates love or behaves within relationships you have to depart from any preconceived ideas of gender as belonging to or ruled by a person’s genitals.
I have never come out, I don’t believe in it.
My approach has always been to do whatever I need to do and let people catch up to me at their own pace…I say that I’m queer but really I’m just a human. I’m usually just whoever I think I am in the moment, which changes all of the time, I would hate to have to stick to one thing. I have a walk-in closet that is actually a tree house.”
Historically, astrology developed by extensive observation of the movement of stars and planets and by studying how those movements and relationships affected human behavior and thinking. It has been evolving, shifting and expanding for centuries. It provides a framework but depends on the flexibility of that framework and also hinges on an on-going conversation between what we are feeling, perceiving and experiencing internally and the reflection of that understanding in the universe around us.
But astrological desires convey a more compelling dream, confided in the Hermetic dictum, ‘as above, so below’—trusting that some configuration of celestial bodies allows for insight into all of the potential futures that exist, and all of the dangers and gifts that await us, whether fizzling or newly-founded. It is a remarkable idea, and a totally inane one, doe-eyed and hopeful despite the realities of institutionalized violence, mass incarceration, or state surveillance. That stars and celestial bodies might have bearing on our collective fates, rather than government agencies, bosses, or landlords, gives otherwise worldly concerns over to the movement of stars.
Yes exactly. To walk through the world queer is to step on the cracks of society and social structures. The connection between queerness and astrology is a fluid one, a reflective one. It is an acknowledgment. Perhaps like Castor and Pollux there is one of us on earth and one in the stars.
Marty Windahl (MW) is the writer, artist and witch behind TAROTSCOPES, a weekly horoscope based on tarot. She has been making magic and helping unfold quandaries and conundrums with her feminist tarot deck for over ten years. She currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.