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.
I just need to take a moment to scream about Steven Universe and how incredible a show it is (just, you know, ignore the fandom). For a cartoon aimed at kids, it does an amazing job at tackling some really hard, deep topics--and does it with fab songs, to boot. Warning: here be spoilers.
[For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the wiki rundown.]
When I first started watching SU (a while after it came out, I’ll be honest), I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into, but I was amused enough to keep going. And then, BAM, I got hit over the head with the feels.
I think my first “holy crap” moment in the show was the arc with Jasper and Lapis forming Malachite.
For me, this hit home pretty hard as a representation of an abusive relationship where both parties keep each other trapped. But it’s a kid’s show and they never whack you over the head with “hey, so, this is bad.” It’s just there as a part of the plot, and Lapis has to come to terms with it afterward and learn how to heal.
After “Change Your Mind” came out, someone pointed out that Steven’s arc through that episode really closely mirrors a trans (and I’d even argue any sort of identity-changing realization) coming of age story. They even use the same language and problems when Steven’s attempting to convince the Diamonds that he isn’t Pink. And, while I hadn’t thought about it when I was watching it the first time, it’s absolutely brilliant.
No one is really evil in this show. Everyone has the opportunity to grow and change and learn from their mistakes.
Plus, the Music is Incredible.
From silly tunes like “Cookie Cat” to songs that have literally helped me through a panic attack like “Here Comes a Thought,” the soundtrack is just beautiful. Honestly, some of my most uplifting and motivating songs have come from this show.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go keep sobbing over this show and it’s amazing non-binary creator in that corner over there. Feel free to join in.
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.
I'm not going to lie: I'm exhausted. And I don't mean physically. Emotionally and mentally, I'm drained.
There is so much awful happening in the world right now, and it's impossible to get away from it. It's on the internet, the news, commercials, in conversations--everywhere. Hell, I think about it when I walk outside and am confronted with a hotter summer than I ever remember.
It's like I'm drowning in bad news and hatred.
But I am here to remind you to breathe and give yourself the space and time you need.
It's time to "put on your own oxygen mask before helping others." If you're on medications, make sure you take them. Talk to a therapist (if you don't have one, find one, even if you're neurotypical). Log off the internet for a while. Set boundaries about when and where certain things can be discussed. If you're into meditation, make sure you do that. Spend time with loved ones and snuggle your pets.
Do whatever you have to do to get through. We're in this together. I promise.
Me? I'm going to take a nap and get back to working on some radical art like the Aces High, Jokers Wild series.
P.s. If you're in the Denver Metro area, come down to Enchanted Realms in Colorado Springs
tomorrow (Sat. July 27) from noon to three for a book signing. And be sure to drop by MALCon's author's nook to say hello the weekend of August 9th.
I've been thinking about creating some sort of manifesto for this endeavor for a long time now. I started it months ago and let it stew. I knew I wanted to do something for the kickass outcasts--the people who embrace their true selves and uplift one another and fight for change, no matter how small. But I wasn't sure how to create a banner for us. A rallying cry. Something to look to when we're feeling beaten down and low.
Something clicked today and it finally came together. I don't know if this will resonate with you or not, but it's the core of what I'm hoping to accomplish here at Wandering Jotun: this community of outcasts and weirdos, all lifting each other up and creating the change we need.
So, I present to you, The Kickass Outcast Manifesto (image, with accessible text beneath).
I was talking to my therapist about love and the conditions people in my life have placed on it. Most of them don't feel like conditions. It's not an overt "I only love you if..." statement. Most of the time, it comes in the form of a "I don't support/agree with/understand X, but love you anyway." It becomes a love in spite of not because of.
As I was listing off some of the moments I've noticed recently, my therapist suggested that, perhaps, I was also placing conditions on loving myself.
[Insert brain explosion here]
There are certain things we've all heard that become internalized extremely quickly:
I never quite realized how easy it is to take those statements and let them become stipulations on your own self-love. I'm no psychologist, but I wouldn't at all be surprised if a lot of (at least my) self-loathing and guilt and frustration comes from buying into these, and not letting ourselves feel good until we've accomplished them.
That's the thing: there's literally no way to reach these impossible standards.
Telling ourselves we can't be happy or love ourselves unless we're perfect or thin or working 60 hours a week, or whatever--that's not healthy. And it's just as painful as someone else setting conditions on when and how they love you. Maybe even more so, since it's such a subtle, internal process that we often don't notice it. I certainly didn't.
I kept telling myself I had to wait to put effort into this endeavor because I didn't feel queer enough, or deep enough into the popular sides of pop culture. I kept letting myself push off the happiness this work brings me because I didn't feel I could do it perfectly enough.
I wish I could say just recognizing the limitations we place on our own self-love would make them go away. It won't.
But realizing the conditions we set on loving ourselves is a huge first step toward actually allowing ourselves to be happy in a world that prefers us miserable.
So jump in with me: what conditions have you set on your own love? What social pressures are holding you back from doing things that make you happy? Tell me in the comments and we can sob together.
I have mixed feelings about Pride Month, if I'm completely honest. I think it's important to celebrate marginalized identities and provide safe spaces to do so. I think it's important to recognize the past of the queer community and the sheer radical nature of our forebears. I think it's important to remind those who would grind us down that we are here to stay.
But it also feels suffocating in a way. It's a time when a lot of people tend to boil down their identities to their queerness. Which, I mean, I understand--for plenty of folks, it's the one time they can feel safe embracing that part of them. But I've never liked to present myself as just this one thing. Yes, I'm queer, but I'm also a creative and a nerd and all these other labels.
Of course, there's also the issue of a lot of corporations jumping on the bandwagon and throwing rainbows on everything without actually supporting the queer community. And it's the time of year homo- and transphobes crawl out of the woodwork to complain and argue our existence even more often than normal.
There's a pressure--at least one that I perceive--to attend events and slather myself in rainbows, or else I'm not proud of my identity. And, as an introvert with claustrophobia in a an environment that feels unsafe, that's extremely frustrating. Similar to the issue of having few places to socialize outside of queer bars--if it's not your place, you're SoL.
I don't have a better solution to celebrating our identities and our past. But I do want to leave with some encouragement:
This month can be a mess of feelings for a lot of people. But we're going to make it through, y'all. You're going to be okay.
Have you ever noticed how gendered every day things are? I'm not even talking the whole bathroom debacle, but things like toys and food packaging. At the bookstore the other day, I saw a "manmergency kit" advertised for Father's Day (I assume it was a mini shaving kit or something). I'm constantly confronted with "women's X" when there's no reason to specify an audience gender.
I was talking to my therapist this morning about it and realized that so many people don't even think about this sort of thing. Seeing blue and pink candy wrappers is just normal. Of course there would be a distinction between products for men and women--even if the product is exactly the same. And this isn't even delving into the "pink tax," where products marketed to women cost more than products marketed to men.
As someone who doesn't adhere to the gender binary, this is incredibly frustrating. It's everywhere and there's no escaping it. Our society (and our marketing) is exceedingly reliant upon gender and the apparent opposition of "man" and "woman."
Sometimes I wish I could just snap my fingers and erase the binary altogether. But, alas, that is not the magic I work. All I can do is keep working here at Wandering Jotun, keep supporting my other nonbinary and genderqueer friends, and keep sharing my authentic self. Hopefully I can at least make a little change.
It's officially November. 2018 is starting to come to a close (or, if you follow a different calendar, your new year is already here). I'm not entirely certain where this year went, but I know it was a bit of a roller coaster--and that's just on a personal level, not on a national or worldwide scale. That's a whole other ball of wax I'm not going to touch here, for my mental health if nothing else.
I am, however, going to drop some encouragement here. Because if I need it, I'm sure someone else does, too. Yeah, I know they all sound kind of like generic uplifting bullshit, but sometimes that's still a reminder we need.
I know it can feel like the world is crashing in on us right now. I know the holiday season can be rough on its own, and even rougher with everything else happening around us marginalized folks.
But we're still here. We're still fighting, in whatever way suits us as individuals (even if that's just surviving). We're not going anywhere, no matter what people in power want.
So hang in there, my friends. Take a deep breath and remember to take care of yourself during this shitstorm.
I love you.
Nonir is a queer pagan nerd and writes about various things in those realms.