We’ve all heard that representation is important in media. I would bet you’ve come across that Whoopi Goldburg quote about seeing Nichelle Nichols on TV for the first time (I’ve put it in here, just in case).
Representation is important.
I see the GLBTQ character and automatically assuming the creator is going to make them a stereotype, or kill them off--and I’m pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t happen. I see the Pagan and know the story’s going to involve blood sacrifice and really extreme, bizarre Satanism.
I see the nerd and know they’ll either get a makeover to be the pretty, popular kid, or be the butt of every joke until they have the random, obscure knowledge the save the day. I see the neurodivergent character and know there’ll be some ‘snapping point’ eventually where they go on a murderous rampage or the people around them just can’t deal any more.
Media is very, very slowly catching up and beginning to include more representation. But it’s still exhausting seeing yourself on screen or on the page as a stereotype. And, sometimes, we can start to internalize those messages that that’s who we are.
But we aren’t. We’re living, breathing people--not stereotypes and clichés.
Every time I do a panel or workshop about writing minority characters, someone inevitably asks if I have examples of writing them well. I struggle to come up with some, every time. There’s a few standbys I always go to that make me in particular feel seen (listed below), but the list is...depressingly small.
That’s why I write my own stories, both fanfic and original.
I write stories that feature diverse casts as people, going through the same fantasy and scifi adventures straight white cis folks get to go on. It’s cathartic, terrifying, rough, and wonderful. But I hope that, someday, they can at least help someone feel seen the way I want to be seen.
Because we all deserve to be seen, represented, and respected. It shouldn’t be that hard.
My examples of good minority writing:
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had imposter syndrome! So, that’s like, all of us. Sweet.
Most of the time, we talk about imposter syndrome is the context of creating or working. That feeling that you’re just making shit up and don’t know anything and sooner or later everyone’s going to figure out that you’re only here because of a mistake. It’s a really awful, shameful feeling.
But imposter syndrome doesn’t only hit us at work. It can also crop up in unexpected places, like our spiritual lives.
I find this to be particularly true for those who do any sort of magic, or psychic/spirit work, but it can hit anyone at any time. Because our brains suck, let’s be real. If I’m honest, spiritual imposter syndrome is one of the things I struggle with the most.
So what might spiritual imposter syndrome look like?
Basically, it’s that nagging worry that you don’t quite fit, aren’t quite right, are making things up, or are just faking things for attention. Not to get all psychological up in here, but a lot of these feelings can stem from the shame of being different (or being “too normal,” depending on the circumstances). Especially on a pagan path in an Abrahamic-leaning world, where intimate connections with astral beings aren’t really A Thing.
But here’s the good news.
You aren’t alone and you aren’t an imposter.
One of the things I’ve noticed is that most people who struggle with spiritual imposter syndrome tend to be on the right track, for lack of a better term. Sure, we might not be 100% on top of things all the time. But we generally have a better grasp on our experiences, beliefs, and discernment than we think we do.
So go forth and tell that imposter syndrome to fuck right off. You’re better than that.
Well, 2020 is definitely...a year so far. I know a lot of us were hoping this year would be better than the last and are already staring down tragedy after tragedy. I’ll be honest: it’s exhausting. Even as someone who has the privilege of safety, it’s hard to know that all of this awful stuff is happening in the world, and feeling like I can’t do anything to help. Anyone else struggling with feeling useless?
I feel like I’m trying to stop the ocean with a sandcastle. Except the ocean is the shittiness in the world and the sandcastle is art and compassion.
We need community. We need compassion. We need creativity.
We need to put on our own oxygen masks, then help improve the world in tiny ways as best we can. Sure, we might not be able to change things overnight, or enact the big, dramatic changes we’d like to see. But baby steps help at least ease the feeling of being useless.
Because we’re not useless. Ordinary people like you and me is what’s going to make the world change, even if it doesn’t feel like it. We have to shout louder, create more, and above all survive.
So here’s to 2020: my year of radical, revolutionary compassion.
P.s. If you want to help me make something to help you throughout the year, click here and take this two-minute survey. <3
Pop culture has a really complex relationship with mental health.
Honestly, I think that’s one of the things that’s beautiful about fan works: we have the ability to create our own representation, and make sure it’s what we want to see.
Just being able to create or consume media that accurately portrays things like mental health issues can be incredibly healing. Representation matters.
But even media that doesn’t have representation can be important in mental health. When I was at my lowest a few years ago, I latched onto a video game and it literally became my lifeline. Making it through the day to go home and play was the only reason I kept going. It got me through that time and, in a roundabout way that involved some Pop Culture Paganism shenanigans, was the thing that finally pushed me to get the help I needed.
Pop culture strikes at the very core of us in ways we can’t expect. It can go way beyond just escapism. And sometimes that means books, TV shows, video games, music, whatever, are way more important to someone than you could ever guess.
So don’t be ashamed if you cling to your favorite show to get you through the day. Do what you’ve got to do to make sure you’re healthy and taking care of yourself mentally and physically--even if people might be confused about why you love something so much.
Is there a piece of media that’s helped you with your mental health? Share it in the comments!
Have you started thinking about the changes you want to make for 2020 yet? I have. Like I said previously, I don't really like the idea of resolutions. But there are definitely some habits I want to form and some I want to get rid of.
I've always struggled to make good habits, if I'm honest. It's hard to change the way we think or behave. But sometimes you just hit this point where the other option is just stagnating and staying in this place that you hate.
So in 2020 I'm going to work on creating the habits I want to have.
To that end, I made up a little something to try and help. It's a little printable to help keep track of what habits I want to make, how often I want to do them, and how I can reward myself for getting them done. Because carrots work better than sticks.
For example, I want to start exercising more. So I might fill it in with "If I do three pushups every day, I can have a piece of fancy chocolate."
Rewards don't have to be big or expensive. They just have to feel good and motivating to you.
If you'd like to give it a shot with me, feel free to download the PDF by clicking here. I'm also considering making a Facebook group or Discord server for accountability and support in the new year--so please let me know if you'd be interested in that!
I’ve been reading Brené Brown and working on being authentic and brave lately. It’s rough, but I think it’s an important step in owning who we are as Kickass Outcasts.
That’s great, Nonir, but what’s it got to do with me?
Well, it’s got me thinking about how much society pressures us to conform and how deeply most of us have internalized that message.
I’m out here running this site and business focused on putting myself out there as authentically as possible, right? I still worry about what people are going to think and how I stand out.
My subconscious decided to remind me of this the other night, when I had a dream about a cis woman telling me I needed to shave my legs (which I haven’t done in years, btw) in order to fit in. I woke up baffled and hurt--because I realized it was myself telling me to shave, even though I know the people important to me don’t actually care.
This message that I have to fit the perfect image of an AFAB person--hairless, meek, demure--has dug so deep into my brain that it pops up when I move toward doing anything authentic (okay, so shaving my legs may be a metaphor for something bigger, but the point remains).
Even when I think I’m ready to stand on my own and face the world as my Kickass Outcast self, this burning need to keep my head down and fit in refuses to let go.
I know I’m not alone in this. Talking to friends and hanging on the ‘net, I see almost everyone struggle with this. We’ve been conditioned from childhood to avoid making waves, to follow instructions, to tie our self-esteem to how well we can fit in. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to shake off.
But I do believe we can do it. I believe that, with the right support and encouragement and community, we can all learn to truly let ourselves shine. It might take a lifetime, and we’re never going to be perfect at it, but it’s worth the effort.
I’m taking my baby steps forward and continuing to refuse to shave my legs. Because screw you conformity.
What teeny tiny steps can you take to work toward being yourself instead of squishing yourself into a box?
The thing about the fact that we’re all always growing, is that it’s really an incredible opportunity every day to figure out how to be more and more of the person that you want to be.
I don’t know about you, but I needed to hear this. It was tucked away at the end of an interview I stumbled across, but it was one of those phrases that just reached in and punched my heart in the face.
There’s this weird idea that once we hit a certain age, we’re supposed to be done growing and changing--that we’re supposed to know exactly who we are and be content with that.
In my experience, that’s utter bullshit.
Everyone is constantly evolving and recognizing new facets of ourselves. There are people who don’t realize or understand their sexuality or gender until well into their 50s or 60s or beyond. There are people who pick up new hobbies, interests, and passions the older they get. There are people who find their calling years after they’re out of school with a useless degree. [Side-eyes my useless degree]
We’re not some fully-realized human once we become adults. We’re still messy, learning, growing, and changing. And that’s good.
Becoming the person you want to be.
For a long, long time I didn’t know who I wanted to be. I had a list of labels and jobs I wanted, but that isn’t who I wanted to be at the core. Due to my various traumas and being an outcast in my own right, I just felt lost.
But one of the changes I was slowly going through was figuring out who that person is: confident, kind, funny, giving, creative. I’m still not where I’d like to be, but every day I can make the decision to work toward it, little by little.
Every day is a new adventure and a new chance to understand and realize your own inner truth (yeah, okay, that sounds super New Age-y, sorry). So who do you want to be, and what steps are you taking toward them?
You may have noticed my tagline is “art and spiritual services for the outcast.” Which sounds great, right? But also there’s a little wtf up in there. So let’s talk about outcasts and why I’m doing this whole Wandering Jotun thing in the first place.
First off, what do I mean by “outcast,” anyway?
“Outcast” came from trying to figure out a good term to encompass marginalized people and communities that didn’t sound so...clinical. I ran through a lot of different terms, but settled on “outcast” because:
So, wtf is this?
Wandering Jotun Crafts is my attempt to make the world a better place. It’s a little selfish in that I want to use my creative side to support myself financially--but my ultimate goal is to make art that represents, supports, and uplifts my fellow Outcasts.
This is my attempt at cultivating and encouraging community and support between marginalized people, and to remind you that you’re not alone. Because, when it comes down to it, we have to have each others’ backs. Especially in a world that’s increasingly fixated on trying to ensure conformity.
Take a breath and join me, fellow Outcast. We’re gonna make our corner of the world pretty again.
It's been forever since I've talked about spiritual stuff, so let's go. [Insert motor revving sounds here]
As you may or may not know, I'm a pop culture pagan. I work with spirits from pop media, which comes with an interesting side effect: I know when their birthdays are. This isn't a particularly common thing (at least in my experience) with ancient or 'mythological' spirits. But a lot of pop culture entities were created with specific birthdays, likes and dislikes, and all the other fun stuff that goes into creating a character.
So let's talk spirit birthdays and other celebrations.
Just like physical people, spirits have different reactions to their birthdays. Some of them love celebrating, some want it to just pass unnoticed. Before throwing a party for a spirit, make sure they're comfortable and want it.
Now the fun bit: some ideas on how to celebrate birthdays or other celebrations with the spirits in your life.
Keep in mind these are just ideas and things I've done personally. Make sure whatever you do is fun and works for both you and the spirit(s) you're celebrating with!
That's all there is to it! Anything can be a birthday or celebration gift or activity if you do it with intention and keep the spirit in mind. So go celebrate!
Next weekend is Myths and Legends Con (MALCon to those in the area). This is, technically, my first time attending and I'll be vending in the Author's Nook with my co-author Olivia of Leafing Out Gardening. I'll also be on six panels throughout the weekend, mostly covering queer topics in fiction.
So I've been thinking about being queer in nerdy convention spaces.
I'll be the first to admit that, while there's a lot of overlap between nerds and the queer community, there's still some major issues in geekdom when it comes to queer-phobia. There are folks who sneer as crossplaying (cosplaying a character of a different gender), assume gender regardless of costume, look down on queer-themed merch, make comments about queer couples, and more. It can be very subtle, but it still hurts.
I've personally gotten stink eye at a couple of cons when folks saw my queer pagan prints. I've been misgendered immediately after introducing myself with my pronouns (they/them, in case you missed it) on a panel. I've had people put down books the minute they realized it had queer content. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Obviously, I'm out in convention spaces. But I'm still scared af.
I always hesitate when I introduce myself on a panel, even though most of the panels I'm on are about queer-specific topics. I always wonder if someone's going to come up to me afterward and debate my identity or the information I've shared. I unconsciously stick to my friends and stay in specific places just to make sure I'm safe.
But you know what? It's worth it.
By being out and proud at conventions, I've helped other people realize it's okay to be themselves.
Most of the time after a panel, I'll have at least one or two people come find me to talk about how much it meant that I shared my experiences. There's been at least one time when someone told me I'd introduced them to a term that perfectly described them. A couple times, folks have come up and wanted hugs because my experiences echoed theirs so deeply.
And that's important to me.
That's the entire premise behind this business: helping people realize it's okay to be themselves.
So, even though it's scary and convention spaces need a lot of work, I'm going to keep showing up and being as authentic as I can. I don't know how much of a difference I can make as one person. But I hope that, eventually, we can change the convention scene to be more welcoming and accepting to people who aren't cis-het white folks.
Nonir is a queer pagan nerd and writes about various things in those realms.