With a subject line like the above, how can the content fail to be of great interest to anyone and everyone who comes across it? I’ll see whether or not I can defeat your expectations with what follows, then…! ;)
What I will be stating later in this blog post is something that I had hoped might be a while off for me. I had visions of doing this particular post in about two years’ time, after certain milestones had been accomplished in my academic publishing career. I also had hopes, many years ago, of having been able to make this announcement by this time, with full-time, tenure-track (or even tenured–gosh, was I ever naive!) employment and a certain amount of academic freedom that comes with such a position being in my possession.
But, we don’t always get to make these decisions the way we’d prefer, and we are rarely able to do so from a place of security and comfort rather than simply in the midst of the difficulties of life. So it goes…
Several of you who know me personally will know what will eventually follow below. The rest of you, please do read on…
Back in 2008, I had a choice before me. I could continue, as I had been doing up to that point, to write under my legal and professional name. I had the idealistic notion that I had a certain degree of integrity, that I would not compartmentalize my life into discreet boxes for this, that, or the other, and that anything by me that was worth being printed (whether virtually or on paper, outside of blogs and the like) was worth putting my legal name and reputation behind. Boy, was that ever a flawed notion! Because certain things began appearing in my work that I felt needed to be said and shared publicly, rather than waiting for that future date when I had secure employment and so forth, I therefore had the following choice: say nothing, and continue publishing here and there when possible in a certain degree of fear and suspicion of being “found out,” or use the spiritual name I have as a result of my Antinous-related devotions to publish things that follow on from that work. I agonized over this, and it was in the midst of writing The Phillupic Hymns that I met a variety of people who encouraged me toward getting some more out there, including Sancta Patricia Aakhus. Someone else during that time suggested to me, “Yes, get this poetry out there, and you can always claim whatever name you wrote it under in the future at some point, and it shouldn’t matter that much.” I adopted my course of action, and began using the name P. Sufenas Virius Lupus not merely as a private name for devotional purposes, but as a public persona.
I didn’t realize that almost five years later, I’d have a blog, a column on Patheos.com, six books and many contributions to anthologies of poetry, essays, and fiction, appearances on a few podcasts, and some degree of respect and recognition within the wider pagan community…all under this name.
However, the link between this name and my legal/professional name has not been entirely hidden. There are lots of people who have known that the two names are the same person, and who have been content to keep it an “open secret” and to respect my wishes in this regard. I thank them for their patience and their discretion. There have been some opponents (and they are literally that, and I have no bones about naming them such now) who have purposefully linked the two names in an effort to discredit me for reasons that have nothing to do with the opposition I had for their viewpoint–in the case I’m referring to, the individuals concerned decided that my professional and academic opinion on certain matters was invalid because I am part of the “lefty Jew fag conspiracy” and my atypical gender identity and sexual orientation both invalidated my viewpoint on all matters of concern. Of course, this is patent and utter bullshit, and as far as the “lefty Jew fag conspiracy” matter is concerned, my answer is, “Yes…and your point is–?” I responded at one point in those exchanges that “Yes, I am a big flaming fairy fruity fudge-packing fag,” and I’m still very happy to stand up and say that, because in doing so, almost all the words they might use to attempt hurting me are taken away, and their weapons became my armor. The main insigator there then started saying that I was an “effeminate homosexual,” which (like almost everything else he produced!) demonstrated that he knew nothing about his subject, understood nothing useful about it, and had no acquaintance with the realities involved. I’m not particularly effeminate (or, at least any more so than is common among academics), especially since my gender identity doesn’t have any “acceptable range” of such characteristics that must strictly be adhered to; and I’m very certainly not exclusively homosexual, because if I were, then I’d only have relationships and/or sex with other metagender people, and I have yet to have had relationships and/or sex with another metagender person. So, as with so many other things, the individual involved there–may his name be forgotten forever–just got it all wrong, and didn’t understand the depths of his wrongness.
I wish I could say that everyone who has threatened to reveal my identity connections have been persons who are of ill intention or poor moral character; but, I can’t. There have been many within the modern pagan community (and some who have blatantly refused that label) who have referred obliquely to my differing identities, while still not revealing them (including recently), without understanding or respecting the reasons for the different identities; and there have been others who have attempted to shame me into doing something that would not have been of benefit to my livelihood or reputation by suggesting my integrity was questionable for using a “pseudonym.” I will not reveal the names of those individuals, but if they see this and would like to apologize for their behavior, I’d certainly appreciate it. But I do want to clarify, the name P. Sufenas Virius Lupus is not a pseudonym; it is a spiritual name with meaning and importance to my relationship with Antinous, and thus is an important and relevant matter to my public writings about him (and to polytheism in general), including in this blog and in other places.
There is a situation in my life at the moment that I’m not at liberty to discuss further in public at present; I may have more to say on it in the not-too-distant future, but I also may have nothing to say on it (and if so, thank all the gods that such might be the case!). But, in the interests of being open and proud about my identity in devotion to my gods, my ministry and my service to them, and for the integrity of heart, mind, soul, and spirit for the potential difficulties that lie ahead of me in my situation, I feel it is time to do as Hadrian has asked, and raise the banner, break down the wall, and build the bridge between these two names. I have had the sanction of my gods–especially Antinous and Hadrian–in doing this, though Antinous in particular is not at all happy with how this situation has occurred (through no fault of my own), and wishes that I would have had a better position and circumstance to make such an announcement. I couldn’t agree more, but I also know what has to be done, and so there’s no avoiding it.
As much as I’m a critic of “coming out theology,” the actual act of coming out (in any area of one’s life) is a sacred one, and something that only really gets to be done once (even though it occurs in any variety of ways at later points, too, often over the same issues). Like losing one’s virginity, one often hopes for the right time and the best circumstances, but that’s rarely how life works out. And, like other sexual matters, shaming people into coming out, or forcing them to do so, or just plain outing them, is a profound occasion of non-consent, is never okay, and creates more harm and stress and difficulty than it fixes for anyone. Think about that the next time you think you can be cavalier with people’s legal names, their religious affiliations, or any other aspect of their personal lives and identity, particularly where these revelations can lead to loss of jobs, children, housing, and other matters. There are still many states in the U.S. where it is legal to fire LGBTQ people, and there are still some employers who think they can also fire people based on their pagan or polytheist religions–and some courts in the U.S. would support their doing so. If you have been in a privileged position where you don’t have to worry about such threats to your life or livelihood, go from your computer screen now, get down on the ground, kiss the earth and thank all the gods and goddesses you can name for being so fortunate, and never forget how fortunate you are, but also that many others are nowhere near as fortunate.
Discernment has taught me–in accord with T. Thorn Coyle’s recent book’s thematic schema–that though I am always called To Know and To Will (as is everyone), sometimes we must realize there are appropriate times To Dare and appropriate times To Keep Silence. Today is a moment To Dare, and may my having done so bring honor to all of the gods and divine beings that I serve.
So, in conclusion, I’d like to say the following. My name is P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, I am a devotee of the god and hero Antinous and the many other gods, heroes, deified mortals, and Sancti to whom he is related; I’m the founder of the Ekklesía Antínoou, and serve as a Sacerdos, Mystagogos, and Doctor, and in a few days, I will probably be named the first official Magistratum of the Ekklesía Antínoou.
I’m also Dr. Phillip Andrew Bernhardt-House, and I have a Ph.D. from the National University of Ireland/University College Cork in Celtic Civilizations; I wrote a book, based on my dissertation, that is mostly about Celtic werewolves, and I’ve published a bunch of academic and non-academic pieces on Celtic matters in a variety of locations (including one, when I was young and needed the money, and which was edited into something that I do not remotely endorse any longer, with one of the Llewellyn Almanacs several years back). I’ve taught at four different institutions of higher education in the United States, and hope to continue doing so for as long as possible.
At all times and all moments, I am both of these people, and the only time that there has been a difference between them is when I sign one or the other name to a piece of writing that then gets published–but, the same person is writing every piece, and I’m just as much the credentialed scholar and academic when I’m writing the ecstatic poetry for Antinous and the Tetrad, while likewise I’m just as much the ardent devotee, mystic, and fili when I write an article on Arthurian literature or Celtic gender concepts or anything else that gets published in an obscure subject-specific academic journal that is not even available on JSTOR.
As polytheists, we are used to calling our gods under their appropriate epithets: when you want Hermes to help you in your writing, you don’t call him “Psychopompos” or “Propylaios.” When my college students call me “Dr. Phil” (and they do!), I know they’re respectfully looking for information on a topic pertinent to the course they’re taking with me. When my co-religionists and spiritual colleagues call me “Lupus,” I know they are respectfully addressing me as a devotee of Antinous and as a servant to his (and the other deities’) servants. One is my legal and professional name; one is my spiritual name; neither one of them is anything more than a mask and a convenience for identifying the particular roles I play in a certain area of my life, even though my actual life itself has no such boundaries.
Thank you, Antinous Choreios and the great god Dionysos for allowing me to partake of the great storehouse of your masks for playing these roles–I’ll still need both masks for a while longer, though, so if there’s a fine involved for being overdue, just charge it to my tab, please…even though I know they won’t let me have my report card until all fines are paid. But, so be it–I’ve been keeping track of my grades thus far, and I don’t think passing will be a problem in the future.