What does it mean to be Gay and in the Craft? I think there are several questions here, a religious one about whether you can have a pagan faith and be gay - and a magickal one about whether it is possible to work the Craft as a gay person:
Can you be Gay and a Pagan? Do the Pagan Gods accept Gay people?
Again there are two issues here: sexual morality and the Spiritual:
"Religion and spirituality are often confused with sexual morality. Laws about sexual conduct are not divinely ordained, but are creations of society"
(Crowley, 1994; p.162)
We know that most of the monotheistic religions tend to be a littleoffabout homosexuality - at best the response tends to be "Love the sinner, hate the sin". Most gay people will at one time have been quoted Leviticus or Paul by some bible-thumper as to why God hates Sodomy...
Other religions and cultures have been a little more tolerant - Taoism and Confucianism have been tolerant of multiple sexualities, in certain Hindu traditions the transsexual is seen as an embodiment of Siva and his Shakti, and the tradition of the gender-blurring Berdache in some Native American Cultures is well documented. In most of these cultures the blurring of gender taboos is seen as marking that individual as touched by the Divine in some way.
Maybe one of the reasons for such openness is that many of these cultures are Pantheistic. Like them, the most important aspect of Paganism is Polytheism - Diversity is written in. The Gods make us as we are - and that includes our diversity. The one law we all agree is "And it harmeth none..". This is the same for sexual morality as for any other aspect of ethics:
"To pagans...Sexuality is a positive force. It is the force of creation which brings all things into being."
(Crowley, 1994; p.16)
Anything is OK from a religious point of view - the Gods don't care who we sleep with, or what we do in bed; as long as we harm no-one.
The question here is whether Gay people are different. Much of Pagan Mythology (and it's attendant Metaphysics) is represented as being about bi-polar forces - the God and Goddess, Masculine and Feminine - whose interaction creates the world, the seasons and all manifest reality. For a gay person reading such myths, it's easy to feel "but what about me?"
In our view this is a mistake!
The point is, the God and Goddess are not Human! They exist within the realm of Spirit - they are archetypes - personifications of the greater abstract Universal forces. In Taoism they are the Yin and Yang: not opposing forces, but complimentary elements of the same thing, extremes on the same scale. The Qabalistic equivalent would be the Jacan and Boaz - the twin pillars of Light and Dark that make the outer two of three pillars that compose the entire tree of life - The middle pillar being the grey of balance, and the one that we must travel to attain true understanding.
But we are in Malcuth: the Sphere of manifestation (the perfect reflection of Kether, itself beyond the divisions of Gender or sex). In Taoism the world we see is expressed as "the Ten Thousand Things" - none are purely either yin or yang, but rather a complex and complicated blend of the two: not black, not white, but grey.
As Humans we are the Spiritual result of the coupling of the God and Goddess: in effect their magickal Children. Our Spiritual selves are a combination of both Masculine and Feminine force (as our material DNA is a combination of both our parent's genes). Even the Farrars, when speaking of the Male High Priest and Female High Priestess agree that:
"They are essential to each other, and ultimately equal (remembering that the immortal Individuality, the reincarnating Monad, is hermaphroditic)"
(Farrars, 1984; p.169)
No wonder that human sexuality is so complex (the Kiensey scale allows for 100 possible grades between the theoretically purely gay and purely straight!)
Religiously and spiritually there seems to be good reason why gay people can be pagans, but there is still the magickal question - can we work magickally as Gay people?
The majority of the "problem" comes from magick's concept of raising energy through polarity:
"Ritual tries to create a human 'battery' for magickal force, and it uses the 'inevitable' attraction between Male and Female to provide the 'opposite charges'... 'You can't work magic with a homosexual. Homosexuals just can't create a current'"
(T. M. Luhrman, 1989; p.64)
Many Craft traditions work on this idea of externalised polarity: the man=the Male=the God; the woman=the Female=the Goddess. The ideal Gardnerian coven "consists of equal numbers of men and women in working partnerships... as far as possible the man-woman polarity should be observed in coven working" (Farrar, p.182). Magickal energy passes from the Male to the Female; in traditional groups this means Man to Woman, and implies a sexual charge (although not necessarily a physically sexual one!)
Sometimes this working concept is confused (in our view, at least) with the earlier question of what it means to be Male and Female. It is then that you get the idea that gay people can't work effectively because they are Spiritually "different":
"[we feel Wicca is] built around natural maleness and femaleness of mind body and spirit. We are therefore out of tune with the whole idea of a "gay" coven, and would be very ill at ease if we were guests at one, however much we liked the people involved"
(Farrars, 1984; p.170)
(To be fair in a footnote the Farrars do say "We deliberately refrain from commenting on the "gay" covens (another particularly American phenomenon) because we feel that we are not equipped to do so and because anything we might say might be interpreted as anti-homosexual prejudice" They do have "homosexual friends" and regard their sexual attitude as their own business. They have even had "one or two Homosexual members" but only if they assume their actual Gender role in any Wiccan context.)
As we have stated earlier, very little within this realm is purely Yin or Yang; manifest reality is by definition a blend of many subtle energies. Once we recognise that all of us - even Heterosexuals - are not purely Masculine or Feminine, then this idea of a "natural maleness or femaleness" appears less of a justifiable argument. It is interesting to know how the relationship between Zephyrus and Hyacinthus, or the exploits of Zeus with Gannymeade would be explained in such a bi-polar view of sexuality. Or even how Artemis or Cybel would fit into this "Butch/Fem" ideal...
"In most Pagan traditions there is no barrier to Homosexuality. Specific groups within the different traditions may have different views...Paths such as Wicca, which emphasise the polarity between Goddess and God, priest and priestess, may be unattractive to some whose orientation is not heterosexual; but there are people of all sexual orientations within Wiccan groups"
But being gay and in a coven is still a different question to whether one can work Gay Witchcraft - or work sexually as a gay man within Wiccan ritual... But that is a question for the next article!
References & quotes
Phoenix from the Flame: Pagan spirituality in the Western World
London: Aquarian press, 1994
Janet and Stuart Farrar
The witches way: principles, rituals and beliefs of modern Witchcraft
London: Hale, 1984
T. M. Luhrman
Persuasions of the Witches Craft: Ritual magic in contemporary England.
Oxford: Blackwell, 1989.