Usually I try to post each month when the Sun is in the sign of the blog post title. Since I am writing now in Cancer time, clearly Gemini didn’t make the deadline! Apart from an attack of the ‘Can’t be bothered, it’s too hot’ syndrome, the main reason for the delay, is that I went down a Mercury, Gemini, nonbinary, gender, queer astrology, trans etc. rabbit-hole. And a fascinating one it is. Since Mercury has been blitzed by the Sun, and Saturn has been slowing down Mercury’s usual fleet-of-footness, writing has not flowed as it usually does!
Astrological Association GB conference 2023
In a somewhat rash mood, I decided I wanted to give a lecture on gender and eclipses at the AA conference in October this year. I sometimes do these things in order to have a deadline, so that I have to research an area that interests me. We must provide lecture topics quite a while before the event, and by the time I start preparing I often wonder what the hell I was thinking!
So, as I knew this was a huge topic and a somewhat controversial one, I thought I better start now. However, it is with some trepidation that I approach this research. My real question is ‘what is all this LGBTQIA+ activism for?’
We all deserve compassion and understanding
Obviously for individuals who are suffering discrimination and worse, there are clear reasons for protest and activism. And for Pride celebrations. All living creatures should be treated with respect. In my view, we should all be allowed to express ourselves as we wish, so long as we do no harm to others, human and otherwise. (And the environment but that’s another topic). However, I was curious to understand it as a global movement. What can we learn from the cosmos? Why is it such a hot topic?
Let’s get rid of sex
Who you might or might not fancy complicates the issue, so for this post I want to focus on gender and gender-fluidity. Who, or what you have sex with, and how, is another topic and, to my mind, should be a matter of privacy for consenting parties. Religious groups in particular have an obsession with sex and it’s high time that was buried. Enough said for now.
The trans question
I also want to look at the ‘trans’ question, possibly in my next post, as for me that is a different question, especially where medical intervention is involved, although the definitions are somewhat overlapping and it is confusing. For example, there are people who identify as trans-nonbinary, so for me there are several topics there. However, I think that the ‘trans’ issue forms part of the ‘why now’ cosmic agenda, but I suspect different planets need to be discussed.
And so to Mercury
Mercury-Hermes is often spoken of as god who is androgynous, neither male nor female, but both. That seems to fit a nonbinary definition. In Greek mythology, together with Aphrodite, he produced the child known as Hermaphroditus – a combination of their names, Hermes and Aphrodite – who gained male and female characteristics by being bonded with the nymph Salmacis (another rabbit-hole I won’t go down now). So Hermes-Mercury seems to be a fitting figure to gain some insight into nonbinary status.
In many cultures, a third sex was acknowledged and there was no issue with celebrating the gender with which you identify. Or neither gender! When I first worked in Fiji, for banks and government, I often stayed at the Travelodge in Suva. This was way back in the 1970s. To my delight, the receptionist was a rather beautiful Fijian man who always wore lipstick and nail polish. These days that would still be a bit unusual for a Travelodge, but there it was no issue at all, and Fijian men wear skirts anyway! In many indigenous cultures, people embracing gender differences were honoured and celebrated. In the scheme of things, binary is a relatively new norm.
There are people born with unusual chromosomes or with both female and male characteristics, and, sadly, parents are still asked at birth to choose a binary option. There are moves in many countries for transforming surgery to be delayed until the child can consent. As many in the LGBTQIA+ community are advocating, we need to change how we all relate to gender. Many refer to gender as a social construct.
What would Mercury do?
Mercury has wings on his feet and helmet to denote his swiftness. He was very clever from birth, being the trickster and thief of cattle from day one. He is an amoral thinker, so he’s OK with pretty much any views. Relating to the air element in his Gemini mode, he’s very logical and full of ideas. In statues he is clearly depicted as a man, and he has relationships with both men and women. However, he is best known for his ability to pass messages between people. He is the go-between, the networker, bringing together people of all walks of life. He carries a staff known as the Caduceus. That was another rabbit hole! I have added some links below on that.
Hermes’ staff has two snakes and wings on the top. These days it is often associated with medical institutes, however strictly speaking the symbol used in this context should really be the rod of Asclepios, who was a healer. That symbol has only one snake. But back to the Caduceus. It originally represented a bringing together to create peace and balance, or to negotiate trade. Hermes was sometimes called a God of diplomacy.
Nonbinary as psychopomp?
Hermes-Mercury also had the special title of psychopomp – a guide or conductor of spirits or souls to the other world. He could cross boundaries others couldn’t. I think the prevalence of the nonbinary dialogue is a cosmic longing to bring peace between the sexes and balance masculine and feminine characteristics in the world. Nonbinary people are perhaps venturing into territory where others daren’t go. I think Mercury would say – “What took you so long?”
An overdose of genders?
When the world is out of whack, there is a need to restore balance. In the patriarchal, binary world which still applies today, balance is most certainly needed. With Pluto back in the last degrees of Capricorn, the ‘establishment’ is hanging onto patriarchal power with all its might. The harsh treatment of women in places such as Afghanistan, the homophobia which is on the rise again and the violence against the LGBTQIA+ community is heart-breaking.
Gone too far
So no wonder the pendulum needs to swing. However, sometimes it goes too far and needs to take a few swings back and forth to reach a balance point. We have so many definitions of gender these days that I (and I think most people) can’t keep up. And there is an activist agenda from a minority of the LGBTQIA+ community that has become very controlling and political.
Since I live in Amsterdam, I have had several clients from this community and many of them, who just want to live their lives peacefully, do not feel served by the level of, sometimes destructive, activism taking place. Many feel, as I do, that violence against those speaking out against activist views, is never acceptable. And it is also no solution to what I imagine is being desired. Being accepted for who you truly are and being honoured in your choices. But of course after years of discrimination and worse, people are angry.
I understand how it feels to belong to a community that is not part of the status quo. Astrology is unacceptable, ridiculous, dangerous and worse, according to many people on the planet. Astrologers have always been on the outside. So there is a natural attraction between astrology and other groups that feel ostracised. However we astrologers tend not to be on the receiving end of physical abuse as some groups are, but verbal abuse is alive and well.
Activism that attacks your opponents is a fruitless endeavour, and passionate people who try to push their own views on others, engender (interesting word but I’m not going there!) resistance. For me, one of the things to which I am resistant, is having to give my pronouns for astrology conferences. I notice many Americans often do this, to be, (I imagine) politically correct. If people want to use their own pronouns I will respect that choice, and I am happy for them to make that clear. But I don’t want to be forced into a norm that for most of the world is unnecessary. Of course it brings attention to the plight of the gender-fluid, which is a problem that needs a solution. But it does nothing for me in supporting a cause with which I am onside. And that brings me to another of Mercury’s topics. Language.
In the beginning was the word
Hermes knows that words matter. He is a communicator in both speaking and writing. And he is curious, so he listens. This month I took the time to listen to and read many items from the Queer Astrology community. There is now a Queer Astrology conference in the US. Queer theory has been around in academia for a number of years and now there is a movement in astrology to eliminate gender bias.
I was a bit sceptical, as my astrological upbringing as a psychological astrologer had always assumed that everyone had masculine and feminine characteristics. This is a bit different in techniques in traditional astrology, which has been on the rise lately. However, until relatively recently, it is true that most western astrology has been written by pale, stale males! Liz Greene has been criticised in her language too, but in her defence and the many great male astrologers, their work was a product of the times they were in. How things have changed!
Masculine v Feminine
I am pale, but I am definitely not male and I hope I am not stale! So time to check out the language. The Queer Astrology movement wants to get rid of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ when talking of zodiac signs because of the connotations of gender bias. The idea is to use other terms, such as external and internal. Having read the dictionary definitions of masculine and feminine I can see the problem. Of course many dictionaries state: like a man or a woman, however I was a bit shocked by “having characteristics that are traditionally thought to be typical of or suitable for a (wo)man”. Argggh. I have always thought of the terms as being broader but dictionaries don’t. So yes – definitely time to change!
Planets and gender
I do, however, like my planets to have a m/f gender, with the possible exception of Mercury, but I will continue to call him a ‘he’ for now. My problem in western astrology had always been too many men! Until Ceres was reinstated as a planet in 2006, we had only the mother (Moon) and the beautiful young woman (Venus) archetypes. I was delighted to have a older wise woman archetype in the form of Ceres back in the fold. And there are more female dwarf planets. That gives a bit of gender balance and hopefully fluidity that everyone can embrace.
The Italian job
Since I am teaching in Italy, I thought it was high time that I learned a bit of Italian, so Duolingo to the rescue! It is very repetitive way of learning and I haven’t learned the word for astrology or astrologer yet:). However I had forgotten the annoying fact that some languages have masculine and feminine words. English is much easier in that sense, except of course we have pronouns – more on that later. But we don’t have to think whether a table or a jacket is masculine or feminine. Thank heavens for that! Dutch has ‘het’ and ‘de’. That was bad enough and I still make mistakes.
Both Dutch and English have word endings for male/female – like actor and actress but that is definitely on the out. In Dutch I am an astrologe, not an astroloog. In English we are all astrologers (and no, definitely not astrologists!) but at least I am not an astrologess! Or should that be astrologeress?
But that masculine-feminine thing got me wondering if countries that have to think about gender when learning a language are more sexist. I imagined that was quite an original thought but of course it has all been done before and even studied. It turns out that in some studies these countries are more sexist! The four most spoken gender-based languages, according to a BBC article (see below), are Arabic and Hindi, along with Spanish and French. Certainly some Arabic and Hindi speaking countries have the worst gender equality. And Honduras (Spanish) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (official language French) are also high on some lists of worst gender equality! Hmmm. Sexism is an element in this issue.
So clearly language shapes us and matters deeply. But so does speaking up, which in this very polarised world is difficult! But Mercury would say spit it out! Language is one of his specialties. So back to those dreaded pronouns. Of course language can develop, evolve and change. I want to be respectful and am happy for anyone to present as ‘he’ or ‘she’ as wished, and even for that to change each day. And I realise of course that nonbinary people have a problem with that, because it still involves a choice of two options.
But is language being taken hostage?
Some languages have introduced new words for this nonbinary identity and I would be happy to use these words. But I have a problem with they/them. I understand the need for new pronouns, but deep in my DNA ‘they and them’ are plural, and the human I see before me is singular! Every time I read they/them in a bio, I stumble across the meaning. It has shades of the royal ‘we’! So it feels quite impersonal and even pretentious to me. So my plea is for some new words.
A role model – Suzy Eddie Izzard
I think Mercury is a good role model for how to be nonbinary. He is witty and that always helps. And curious, and doesn’t care what others think. My favourite real-life role model is someone who identifies as gender fluid and who now prefers she/her. She has just added Suzy to her name – Suzy Eddy Izzard. Knowing she was transgender before the age of six, Suzy previously identified as a transvestite, but now states she is in ‘girl mode’ as a trans woman.
In her words
A tweet from her shows her humour and her acceptance of who she is: “As people may now well know, I have added the name ‘Suzy’ to my names. So going forward I am preferring Suzy but I don’t mind Eddie. And I prefer she/her but I don’t mind he/him. So no one can really get it wrong unless they call me Kenneth or Sabrina. I am remaining Eddie Izzard in public. Thank you. Suzy/Eddie.”
Born Eddie Izzard – time approximate from her website where Izzard wrote – I was born with Pluto ascending.
Eddie Izzard made his name as a comedian
Although Eddie did a lot of other things he is mainly known as a popular comedian. The now Suzy is a very Aquarian figure. Added to that she has Uranus opposing Aquarian planets which makes her a very different, rebellious advocate for change. Aquarius-Uranus often represents communities that operate outside social norms. As such the LGBTQIA+ and Astrology communities are associated with these archetypes.
Izzard is also very Mercurial, by the fact that she has the Sun next to Mercury. This matches a profile of someone who is very quick-thinking, bright and funny, and in Aquarius maybe somewhat avant-garde. She is a perfect role model for the nonbinary cause. Although she has been attacked many times in her life, both physically and verbally, she isn’t forcing her views down others’ necks. She is showing others how to be true and authentic. And I hope she finally gets elected as a Labour MP in the UK.
A quote from Wikipedia – Mercury showing?: In 2003, Izzard received an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of East Anglia, Norwich, for her work promoting “modern languages and tolerance of other cultures and lifestyles”, and for having “transcended national barriers” with humour.
In the end
The people I see in my practice very rarely come to discuss gender, even in trans clients and a client I had who has two mothers. My hairdresser and I never discuss it either, even though he lives with his male partner and in the same building as his child and her mother, who also has a child with his partner. The only things my clients want to discuss are the big four: work, relationships, health and family. Occasionally they might come to talk about locations. They want to understand their lives and their issues and try to live a fulfilling life. Whatever our stripes, we all just want to be loved and accepted for who we are. The astrology is the same for all of us, even though our language isn’t.
So what’s the point?
Mercury, in his positive Gemini garb, gives us a way to contemplate a way forward for the nonbinary community. And communities who are outside the establishment, have always played a vital role in changing society. Women have fought for equal rights, many have fought for gay rights, BLM has fought for the black community, and disenfranchised communities in France are angry and protesting. And we will fight for children, animals and nature. So it is fitting that this continues to develop and particularly as Pluto enters Aquarius.
Change always requires brave advocates, such as those in the nonbinary community. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.
Quotes of the month
“I came out 30 years ago as transgender and it was not cool in ’85 to say you were transgender … or in 2010. 2015 is getting OK – which is weird – sexuality catching up with the activists.” Eddie Izzard
“I wear whatever I want whenever I want. I don’t call it drag; I don’t even call it cross-dressing. It’s just wearing a dress.” Eddie Izzard
“This hard time with trans is just something we have to go through…”We are in the conversation now. And we will get through it. People get very angry on the internet and I just ignore it. I really try to be positive. I want to be an MP.” Suzy Izzard
And from a book:
“The mind itself is beyond polarities – it is neither male nor female, good nor evil, yin nor yang. ” Chapter on Mercury in Mythic Astrology: Archetypal Powers in the Horoscope by Ariel Gittman and Kenneth Johnson.
I got a bit carried away.
Caduceus and Rod of Asclepios
This one called Caduceus vs Asclepius – mistake or prophetic truth is from someone with an axe to grind about US medical systems, but it’s quite interesting.
Language and gender
BBC article mentioned above : The subtle ways language shapes us
A couple of articles from the last few years
A long and very interesting podcast discussion for astrologers, with Chris Brennan and Christopher Renstrom on Sexual Orientation and Astrology
And as if by magic this just cropped up on my timeline