Posted by: aediculaantinoi | March 7, 2013

The Most Difficult Blog Post I’ve Yet Written…

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.


Responses

  1. “lefty Jew fag conspiracy”

    Oh I so hear you about stuff like this. I’ve had some similar conflicts with people I had called out on spreading bullshit, and then start throwing accusations of being anti-Hellene, Jewish Zionist Pig, and what not… All it does is underscore their ignorance and their inability to recognise they are ignorant.

  2. Congratulations on this particular coming-out! I can imagine it is scary and there are some real perils involved, but I do honestly believe it will give you a new level of freedom (the Dionysian kind, not always gentle).

    • Thank you!

      You’re entirely correct–my nod and bow to Dionysos in the above was to acknowledge some of that…I know I don’t just get to take off my costume and leave the theatre just yet…or, when I do, there will be a crowd of something possibly more fierce than Titans or Maenads out there waiting for me. I won’t be getting through it unscathed, by any means, but I also know that even if I am destroyed, it’s not the end, they can never keep a good Dionysian/Antinoan down, and no matter what, as a Hermes-person, I’ll at least have the last word, even if it’s “neener-neener-neener.” (Which, I guess, is three words, but not even really a word, but anyway…voces magicae!?!) ;)

  3. I salute your courage and wish you all the best. ^_^

  4. Very courageous, and I wish you every good fortune with it.

    • Thank you for your good wishes, my friend, and for all of your excellent work!

  5. Many blessings on this profoundly sacred day. You hold all of your banners and standards well, firm-handed and with dignified poise; you honor your gods and the blessed dead who came before you as scholars, as writers, as priests, as teachers and as soldiering heroes of the gender and sexual fields where the nuances and rights of identity are sorted. I, and all of mine, salute your bravery, your integrity, and your unwavering dedication to all of the causes that you have manned the front lines of as both scholar and priest. It is a privilege to call you friend and ally and kin.

    • Likewise, I feel foolish that I had not solemnized our alliance earlier than this, even though our friendship and kinship was pretty secure and certain for ages before.

      But, it is done now, and I am privileged, honored, and just damn lucky to have this relationship and connection to you, and am thankful to you and your gods, and to all of my gods, that we have been able to have such a relationship.

      Later today, I’ll see if we have to Thrake ‘em hard or soft, so stand by! ;)

  6. I had started out using my real name and then started using my spiritual name when it was given to me. It is a shame that people don’t realize that the use of a spiritual name doesn’t mean that you are hiding behind a fake name. I use Lykeia for just about everything for instance, but won’t hesitate to give my “real” name if asked. That said I can understand why someone would be a bit more hesitant to divulge their legal name. In any case good luck with this coming out :)

    • Thanks very much!

      I totally agree…names are not to be taken–or used–lightly.

      “What’s in a name?” Everything, dear Juliet, alas…! ;)

  7. Congrats! And yes it was a very interesting read.

  8. I hope that the change brings you joy!

    • Thanks very much!

      Now that the two names are connected, I am beginning to wonder if Cherry Hill might be an option for supplementing my income…but, there’s a lot of craziness going right now that might have to be taken care of first. In any case, it’s a thought…

  9. This was a very courageous thing to do under the circumstances. You know you have, and have always had, my support.

    • Thank you very much, dear friend! It still certainly helps to hear it/read it, even though I have always been able to count on you, which I appreciate greatly. :)

  10. Oh beloved friend, how difficult this must have been, especially given how you’ve wished to put this off for a few years. Your courage is instructive. May this wind of freedom blow gently upon you.

    • Thank you!

      The winds we’ve been having around here lately, both of the physical and metaphorical kind, have been heavier than I might prefer, and both have often kept me up at night recently. With any luck, they will both die down in the coming days (the physical wind is already way ahead on that score…typical, isn’t it?).

  11. Kudos for your courage and booo for being made to do this before you really wanted to.

    I guess I get off easy–since I am so often discussing issues in a 12 step context, I get to claim anonymity. In fact, I am bound to do so, by 12 step tradition, whether I want to or not.

    • Thank you!

      There are extremely good, sound, and beneficial reasons for anonymity on many occasions, and I think recovery programs are a good example. So, likewise, well done to you for taking part in and upholding that tradition!

  12. *respectful bow* I’ve never been a fan of the “compulsory outness” ethic myself.

    • *bows in return*

      Indeed, anything that is compulsory (apart from…breathing? heart beating?) is generally not something I’m a huge fan of either.

  13. Today I feel very proud to know you, my friend. What you have done is very brave and may it bring ONLY GOOD THINGS your way!

    • Thank you! I wish the same for you as well in all the future possibilities that are emerging!

  14. Goodness, this was unexpected. I wish you strength and peace, and may the blessings of wholeness come upon you.

    (Also, for the record, I have added your werewolf book to my to-buylist because Relevant To My Interests. In case you needed a little leavening of silver lining, I can offer that.)

    • Thank yoU! Glad to positively add to your future debt reading list!

      I really didn’t expect to be doing this particular thing this week either, but there we are…the situation has somewhat demanded it, and we’ll see what happens next.

  15. Blessed be you, in all your manifold and manifest forms!

    • Thank you!

      And, thank you for your book as well–a great deal of my decision to do this arose out of having read your book, so I owe you even more than I can easily express in a large or small amount of words. :)

  16. To me you will always be Il Buon Dottore and my friend. I have never been prouder to call you such.

    • Thank you! I tip my hat to you–and also ask if there’s any food around?!?–my good Arlecchino. :)

  17. ” ‘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. ”

    ^ This. So much this. Tenuously related, this is how I feel about language in general. It only has as much power as we actively, consciously decide to lend it. You prove to someone that the meaning of a word (particularly a slur) ineffective, that someone will abandon its use in that vein. They can’t get to you with words, they clam up and cop out like chumps. Props to you for realizing this, and for being strong.

    “[It] is not a pseudonym; it is a spiritual name with meaning and importance.”

    ^ Agreed. And I empathize with you completely regarding keeping those spheres of your life mostly separate. I don’t know your legal name, but if I did, I would never “out” you. That IS very, very wrong. That could cause a lot of serious, unnecessary harm to another person. For the sake of being “big billy goat on the hill,” a lot of aspiring “Big Name Pagans” are willing to completely destroy someone else’s career in exchange for a few moments of popularity. This is why we can’t have nice things. If you’re going to rip apart someone’s work, at least restrict the criticisms to the name they published that work under, you know? That’s just common decency.

    There are very good reasons for having a spiritual/writing name, and keeping that separate from one’s secular, professional identity — the latter of which employers and Universities, etc., see and judge a person by. In Academia, it can be a serious black mark on a person to be a scholar and a Polytheist who actively believes in the religion(s) of the culture(s) one is studying. Which is stupid — I can’t even begin to tell you how many die-hard Christians there were in my Crusades History courses and courses on the Medieval Cult of Saints, and their beliefs were never considered detrimental to the discipline, to the field. Because I’m Polytheist, I was side-eyed in the courses I took on the origins and evolution of Modern Occult movements and Magic and Witchcraft in the Middle Ages. A few of my peers were aware of my religious orientation — some were cool about it, some were abrasive and needlessly grudging — and a couple of my professors were aware of my being Polytheist, though I had never told my professors personally. It was not a fun time, but at least my GPA wasn’t compromised for it. And this was in a “Liberal State” in the Northeast US, not a “right to work” State in the deep South.

    And this is to say nothing of what Polytheists/Pagans in the armed forces have to face in the event they’re “outed.”

    Keeping one’s professional life separate from one’s religious life is not a sign of cowardice; it’s not “hiding.” It’s pragmatic intelligence. This is how we have to survive these days. Hopefully one day it will change, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. I just don’t.

    • Thanks for your comments.

      Having lived through a Ph.D. program, and hearing (after I was no longer “in danger” of being kicked out over issues of discrimination, etc.) what the opinion of several trusted people, including my advisor, was on “a world awash in paganism,” made me even less inclined to want to go public on these matters.

      But, the likelihood of anyone in my particular academic field giving me a job is pretty much non-existent at this point, and while I do hope I’ll continue in employment elsewhere and this won’t be an issue, there are some complications to that at present…

  18. Best wishes for this juncture in your journey. Not only are those obtuse, spiritually unaware and rude who refer to spiritual names (or for that matter, pen names) as ‘pseudonyms’, but also sitters on great mounds of privilege of which they are ignorant.

    Many blessings upon you, dear Phil/Lupus.

    • Thanks, dear friend! I am looking forward to seeing you and doing something at Lanuvium West in a few weeks!

  19. *claps and whistles!* You deserve to be recognized and respected for everything that you are.

    • Thanks very much! I appreciate it–and you!–greatly!

  20. Congratulations, and may all aid and fortune support you!

  21. Dear gods, you and I are in a very similar position. I could have written this (except I haven’t…yet). I’ve had the same experiences of being “outed” without my consent, from “opponents” putting out public calls to discover my legal name and work place, to spiritual colleagues slipping and revealing something in a public forum. It is exceptionally nerve-wracking, particularly when you work in education. I have gone back and forth with how much I reveal, the value of separation, etc. There is no easy or universal answer.

    In any case, as someone who knows the full weight and courage of what you have done, congratulations and my best wishes to you under any and all masks.

    • Thank you for your comments and yoru solidarity…

      I am so sorry to hear you’ve had a situation like this. My deepest empathy to you, and my most fervent wishes and prayers for strength and peace through all the difficulties you may be facing meanwhile…

      [And, totally off-topic: I want to see if I can get your book soon, so I'm looking forward to that!]

      • Aw, thanks. I’ve have to make it to PantheaCon one of these days to witness/participate in one of your rituals. As for the Lilith devotional, I’m hoping to do a second edition soon – the first one has some errors and desperately needs expanding.

      • I feel the same about some of my earlier books…but, I just try to lie down until the feeling goes away, mostly. ;) (It doesn’t always work, and in one case, it did result in a covert slightly-better-edited version, but still…we can spend lifetimes just revising one work, and I know I’m prone to that, so for me, putting it out there is more important than getting every last iota perfect, apart from making sure that all the content is solid.)

        It would be great to meet you and have you at a ritual at some stage! Lilith was certainly mentioned in the Tetrad ritual this year, and was present with us, so that was something…!

  22. I cannot imagine how difficult this must have been. You have my sympathies and my admiration, should you wish either.

    Congratulations to you, Lupus, and best of good luck. (First typed “god luck”. That too.)

    • Thank you for all of these! I do appreciate them, and gladly receive them! :)

  23. As someone who has used my full, legal name for some years to write about my spiritual life, I am well aware that one of the reasons I could do that without fear was that I had nothing to lose — no children, no day job, no professional career with a bunch of peers who might judge me adversely, no legal or social status that would be jeopardized by the world knowing about my being a freaky Loki’s-woman and pagan monastic. I think you’re very brave to do this, but I fully sympathize with those who continue to use aliases to protect their livelihoods and families.

    This is a crap world we live in where, for reasons of petty jealousy or spite, people threaten to “out” each other in an attempt to spoil their lives. Congratulations for making the jump into the unknown.

    • Thank you–and thank you for your important and public work!

      I agree that I totally understand, support, endorse, and encourage any who do not feel they can do this without serious adverse consequences to not by any means “come out” as polytheist/pagan/etc. I do have a job, such as it is, but not much else to worry about; and, if I lose my job over this, that’s not something that would be able to stand legal ramifications. But, I digress–! ;)

  24. As someone who was outed as a pagan (at work and in social situations that gave opponents information they should not have had), I know it can lead to difficult decisions. May your gods protect, bless and guide you on your journeys.

    • Thank you very much!

      May all of your gods go with you in all that you do, and may those who oppose and impede you quiver at the sight of you!

  25. I’m sorry this announcement did not come at a better time or under brighter circumstances, but I hope it brings you good fortune in your future endeavors, whichever name(s) you are known by or produce work under. May you and your work flourish for many years to come!

    • Thank you so much!

      I didn’t know your first name–and now I do! Hurrah for learning new things about people in ways that don’t threaten their livelihood! ;)

  26. Well, whoever you are and however you are named, I’d just like to say “thanks” for a blog that consistently combines intellectual rigor with genuine, old-school Pagan piety. The heart and the mind must travel together, and you show how this is done properly.

    • Thanks so much! Those two things are exactly what I aim for, and I’m glad I’m (mostly) able to hit the mark! :)

  27. Augh, I’m late!

    But still,

    One of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite (albeit fictional) people of all time: “Never forget what you are, the rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor and it can never be used to hurt you.”

    Also, you go, Glenn Coco!

    In all seriousness, I’m very happy for you.

    • Thank you.

      We’ll see what, if anything, happens in relation to the other situations soon, and how this might impact it.

  28. My apologies on weighing in late on something so momentous. I’m sorry that your circumstances are in such a place that this was necessary, but I greatly salute your courage in coming to such a decision.

    I was threatened with being outed as a Pagan and Witch at work (a public high school, in Texas no less) about ten years ago. Having had a bad experience with this during my student teaching, I chose to out myself to my immediate boss and my colleagues instead. My boss, a Christian but a reasonable one, shook his head and told me not to share it with the kids, and that was the end of it. My colleagues were a mixture of baffled, disapproving, and curious. When I changed schools, I decided to be out as Pagan from the beginning, and so far it hasn’t caused any problems. I’ve stayed in the closet regarding a few other parts of my identity (primarily being poly, as being pansexual hasn’t really ever come up at work), though, and they could become tricky to deal with later, given the morality clause in the Texas teacher’s contract – so I understand a tiny bit of what you’re facing, I think, but only a tiny bit.

    May the gods support you in all you do!

    • Thank you!

      It all seems to be going well…a lot better than it was a few days ago, certainly.

      But in any case, this is still a major turning point, and could have a lot of effects–both positive and negative–in the not-too-distant future.

  29. I’m sorry that I’m late to the Conga Rat party, but may I add my own congratulations to this chorus of others? CONGRATULATIONS!!

    I am so proud of you Phil. I know how hard this must have been for you. May only good things come to you, now and always.

    • Thank you!

      Remember, in the present context, the most appropriate name is still “Lupus,” but in any case…!?! ;)

  30. I call you friend. I call you what you want to be called when you want to be called it.

    May all others grant you the respect that your bravery in declaring the links between your personae deserves.

    *hugs*

    • Thanks very much indeed!

      (And, my apologies for the delay in responding to your comment–it’s been a crazy week, needless to say…!?!)

      We must get together soon! I miss you terribly! And I have a book for you!

  31. […] fear due to some active religious prejudice by superiors at work. That was the impetus behind my coming out blog post earlier this year–something, I’ll note, that Antinous himself was not at all pleased […]

  32. […] very issue has been the subject of two posts I’ve done specifically this year: one here (which did not even address that the reason for my having to “come out” was because of […]


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