Posted by: aediculaantinoi | September 2, 2013

For Labor Day: Pagan Discrimination in the Workplace

For those of you familiar with the Calendar of the Ekklesía Antínoou, you’ll know that apart from the average number of births and deaths of Sancti of the Ekklesía Antínoou for the month of September, otherwise the number of holy days and official observances is pretty scant and paltry in comparison to almost any other month. Thus, the posts this month will have to be topical and of a nature other than marking particular festivals, it seems. Here we go, then…

There was mention on The Wild Hunt the other day of workplace discrimination for minority religions. As today is Labor Day, and I’m not working because my college is on quarters and one just ended, this seemed like a good topic to discuss for the day. So, below are some of my thoughts on this particular matter.

This 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 the discrimination I was experiencing, and the likelihood that it could involve my various identities in ways that would not have been preferable under different circumstances), and once in part of a column at Patheos.com, and I’ve mentioned it in passing a few further times as well. There is a reason that the “Prayer Against Persecution” is such a commonly-used prayer for us in the Ekklesía Antínoou, and it’s not just persecution over being queer that it covers…

It amazes me the degree to which people’s jobs have an immense degree of influence over their self-perception, sense of self-worth, self-esteem, and any number of other matters. There are generational differences in how baby boomers, Gen-X, and Gen-Y/Millenials understand and deal with their relationships to work and careers. I’m relatively typical of a late Gen-X-er in this regard, from what I understand of the trends; but, I’ve noticed that pagans generally are quite different than the wider society in this area of life. For several years, when I lived with a very good pagan friend, colleague, and co-religionists from mid-2007 to very early 2010, I met other pagans constantly, and the question of “what do you do for a living?” was rarely if ever brought up by them, or by me, in the course of our conversations. Yet, every time I would talk to my family and mention someone, they would ask relatively soon after “What do they do for a living?” This is still the case when I talk with my family to the present day, and I do so on a much more frequent basis than I did during that period…and it still baffles me, because when I talk with my pagan friends, what is going on in our day-to-day lives and at work is the least interesting things there are to discuss. (I except myself from that broad statement, not because my job is “more interesting” than theirs, but because it takes up so much more of my everyday life, thoughts, energies, and concerns these days than other parts of my life, and thus it ends up getting more attention than it would have in the past.) While pagans often have a much more pronounced sense of, and give far more attention and effort towards, making things in one’s everyday life sacred and holy and part of one’s religious outlook, at the same time there are certain areas of life that still seem to get short shrift, and “mundane work” is one of them in more cases than usual. I don’t think this is necessarily a “bad” thing, nor is it necessarily a “good” thing–it’s just “a thing,” I suppose, and one that is good to be aware of, if nothing else.

I suppose I’m in a strange position, in some respects, in relation to this issue that is somewhat different than many of my pagan colleagues, and which makes me a lot more like many people in the non-pagan communities in modern society. I’ve had to fight very hard to get the job that I do have–which is inadequate, and puts me in the economic category of “working poor,” despite the fact that I have some privileges even within that category due to some of my life circumstances–and have almost had to literally beg to get the position that I have, and some of the subsequent work that has come about since I got that initial break that gave me a class per quarter at this college. When one is in such a position, the old cliché of “beggars can’t be choosers” is in the background all the time: the advice I’ve had from baby-boomer generation family is always along the lines of “don’t make waves” and such, and to be grateful for whatever I’m given, even though they also often tell me that I should try and ask for more. Yet, when the situation of prejudice at my workplace came about, my sense of outrage at it was not echoed by some people of that generation who were advising me, and their suggestion was to “just get over it” and “put up with it” and so forth. The individuals involved were not themselves pagan (I am the only one in my extended family who is at present–I hope that might change in the future, but it hasn’t yet), and thus I don’t think quite understood how important these matters are for me.

Religion, for me, is not just a weekend activity or an occasional thing akin to a “hobby” (and, unfortunately, for many people in many religions, it’s far more like that than anything), it’s the unquestioned singular reason for my continued existence, the sole purpose of my life, and the only thing that provides meaning in my life. Unfortunately, any attempts on my part to make it the sole activity of my life have failed utterly–no one pays me to come and speak or give workshops, few enough people enroll in the courses I offer (even at majorly discounted prices!), and my books don’t sell more than about eight copies a month most months (and some months, none at all).

Without being pejorative or non-constructively critical, the simple reality of modern paganism in general, and polytheism in particular, is that the community is not large enough, nor interested enough, in having anything like full-time clergy or other sacred functionaries that are paid for the very real and important work that they do; no matter how often they might suggest otherwise, and as much as the desirability of such positions is lauded and named as a desideratum, it won’t happen until people put their money where their mouths are. Most people don’t quite understand what clergy is or does, what temples are, what needs having such facilities would fulfill, and there are all sorts of legitimate reasons for this lack of understanding, and which thus no one should feel bad about not understanding; and yet, if our religious movements are to increase and become more viable in the future, this understanding will have to be reached eventually, and hopefully within the current generation if possible.

There are some pagan authors, teachers, and others who do “make a living at this,” whatever their particular this is, although in almost every case, the living doesn’t come as a result of book sales alone. Travel has to be a part of it in most cases, and that doesn’t come cheaply. The austerity that some have to endure to make such a life possible is noteworthy, and is itself a matter of privilege, because some of us have overhead that we have to meet above and beyond rent and food due to disabilities and the medical care and drugs which are necessary to sustain our lives. I admire those who are able to do all of these things, and I sometimes aspire to be them, and I quite honestly envy many of them–not because they are “Big Name Pagans” and I’d like to be one (though, again honestly, that’s sometimes a consideration!), but because I’d love to be in a position where not having a few hundred extra dollars in a given month will not be the difference between literal life and death for me. But, I digress…

So, I’m in this position where I feel lucky to have the job that I have, even though it is stressful, not at all ideal, frustrating, and an energy and time drain, and less rewarding than I imagined it would be; but also, I’m not in any kind of position to leave it, and am bound and determined that unless and until I can get something better, I will do everything possible to keep that job and very definitely do not want to lose it. Yet, not only in the issue of religious prejudice at the job in this last year, but in other things as well, am I willing to “settle” as much as I have in the past?

This year: I don’t think so.

Foundation Day this year (as well as Natalis Antinoi) falls on a Wednesday, which is a day I have class next quarter. There have not been very many Foundation Days that I have spent alone, with no one to celebrate with–for only one in the eleven I’ve celebrated so far since 2002 have I been alone, and that one was last year’s. For this one, the twelfth I’ve personally celebrated, I’m going to make certain that I’m not alone again. And, in order to do that, I’ll have to travel to Seattle. And, in order to do that, I’m going to have to miss work. Of the two classes I’ll be teaching this quarter, one is online, so I’ll technically be missing eighty minutes of work in order to be with others on that day. I know that if I ask for it, I’ll be given it, and I know that if I say it is because of religious reasons, they will not give me any grief about it–if they do, they’ll very definitely be sorry

So, the first day of the quarter, I’ll be putting in for this “leave without pay” occasion. (And, I will put in for Wednesday the 27th of November as well.)

I’ve often said that one has to have an approach to rituals and holy-days which essentially says that one’s own world cannot continue without performing the rituals. Even though I hear people say, “But we know that’s not the case, and it’s superstitious to think so,” the reality is that if religion really is as important to one’s life as someone states that it is (and I do state that, as I did above!), then one cannot but have such an approach to ritual and the performance of certain rituals and festivals on given holy-days in particular. None is more important to the devotion of Antinous than Foundation Day and the birth of the god (though he was human at the time!), and thus, nothing is more important than doing those rituals and being with my family and community of co-religionists–however limited they might be in numbers or in time–on those days. The world may not stop for us willingly, freely, or happily for these occasions, but we can quite literally stop the world if we choose to make it as important as it is on these sorts of festivals.

I hope that for both (or either) Foundation Day and Natalis Antinoi this year, many of my friends, colleagues, co-religionists, Mystai, and wider pagan and polytheist community members who have not done Antinoan things before in the greater Seattle area might join me in late October and late November in the Seattle area for some ritual and other festivities for these occasions. There is nothing that means more to me than doing so, and I hope that as many of you as possible might be present for it!

As much as I am grateful for the job I have, and as “well-behaved” as I try to be with it in most respects, to compromise on these matters any longer is not an option for me. I will proceed with that being the mindset I adopt…

How about all of you? What have your experiences been with employment and negotiating holidays and the like for pagan/polytheist purposes? Do you have any plans for the near future involving such? I’d be interested in hearing anything you might have to comment on these matters in the comments below.


Responses

  1. [side note: you covered a lot of issues in this piece, which is why comment is going to be a little disjointed, lol]

    “…the question of “what do you do for a living?” was rarely if ever brought up by them, or by me, in the course of our conversations.”

    You know, that’s something I’ve noticed too, but haven’t given it much thought. I mean, there are many in my immediate religious community that I have no idea what they do for living, and I’ve known them for years. Hm. Me, most people probably know what I do, but it’s not because my immediate job is the most invigorating (I shelve books all day, not the most exciting thing in the world, even if it does give opportunity for meditation), it’s because I’m a bit of a library advocate and hope to make it my vocation – hence, library school this fall!

    Re: Pagans supporting their clergy – Seriously, that’s not going to happen until we start living near each other, taking over neighborhood and/or towns. That’s the only way I can see us being able to support building physical infrastructures such as temples. Even a small space requires a lot of money for upkeep, and people need to be invested in them.

    Re: Paganism in the workplace – I’m thankful for my job, where this has not proven an issue. I feel free to wear whatever religious insignia I please, and when it’s topical talk freely about what I do with my co-workers. And the time-off scenario is also a boon, since I am not required to justify why I need a certain time off. I acrue vacation hours as I work, and am encouraged to take time off as I need, no hassle, the only stipulaton being that I am not guaranteed a certain time if I’ve requested it more than once and/or a lot of my other co-workers have already requested time off during that time; it’s about fairness and first come, first serve. Thankfully Easter is a floating holiday, so it hasn’t really been noticed yet that I request that whole weekend off every year for Spring Mysteries…… ;) I’ve also requested Foundation Day off this year, since I feel it’s really important to be there with everyone. I’ve already talked with BlackCat and Jimbo, and it’s tentatively on their calendars at the moment; it’ll be further confirmed once we get closer to the date, I imagine. Anyway, I look forward to seeing you then! It’s been too long.

    • Glad to hear you’ll be doing library school! Excellent!

      I agree that actual community-building of a bricks-and-mortar variety will be necessary to really establish ourselves in the world. (As soon as I win the PowerBall, I’ll be doing exactly that!) In the meantime, though, I think there is more we could be doing while we are in our disparate (diasporic?) state without such communities, which may lead to them eventually, etc.

      And, I’m glad to hear that you’ll be taking Foundation Day off, and that at least four of us will be able to be together! Hurrah for that! (I’m sure we could easily get at least two more, if all goes well, and perhaps more!)

      Speaking of which: no one has said a word to me about how the Lion Hunt went with y’all. More info, please? What did you do? How did it go? Who all was there? Etc.?

  2. The Lion Hunt went splendidly. It was BlackCat, Jimbo, and I, and we used the ritual written by Erynn, and supplemented that with appropriate poetry and prayers. Afterwards we took the divine images and the red candles up from their temple space to the living room and just enjoyed a relaxing evening with food and wine. It was lovely.

    I’m really looking forward to Foundation Day. I think we can get a fair few people to show up for that. And can you believe that it’s been almost two years since we did that ritual together (and hence since my mystification)? Boggles the mind! ;)

    • That sounds very nice indeed!

      And, yes, it’s amazing that so much time has passed…and yet, it also almost feels like “nothing” (and not in a “bad way”–just like the whole wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey sort of way these things often are), as if that day was only a few days ago. Crazy…


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