By Helle Bent
A felicitous November to all our merry mischief makers! The struggle for justice is ongoing, and though things are far from perfect, we can’t begin to clean up the china shop until the rampaging bull(shit) is removed. With the election behind us, I hope that our shop can once again have nice things. I like nice things. I miss nice things. Sigh.
Happiest of birthdays to November and December babies! Hail thyselves! May you each find unique and glorious ways to celebrate yourselves independently of any upcoming holiday. I refer to this time of year as The Winter Gauntlet due to all my familial obligations. It’s tough to not shrink in my spotlight when my family reminds me of all the skins I’ve managed to shed. I envision a circle of flames around me, scorching any questionable energy on its way to me before it can take shape, a fiery bouncer at the door of the House of Helle Bent. No, ye shall not enter.
Hi! I am a queer Satanist. My social and political values are fabulously frolicking on the left side of the spectrum, where I think everyone should come over and play. (We have cookies!) Equality and justice and compassion do not negatively impact the already fortunate. I pity those so scornful of others’ happiness. But this isn’t about them.
Generally, I identify as queer. For those familiar with the nuance, the terms demi/gray-sexual pan-romantic most closely describe me. However, I find that lots of (non-Satanic) straight folks (like my parents) really only care if you’re straight or not-straight. So queer is fine. Bi or pan is fine, depending who is asking and how much energy I feel like putting into the explanation. Drunk frat bro sidling up next to me? Gay, I’m totally, fully 100% gay. While it’s true I hate everyone, I can fall in love with anyone. Sex, though, is a completely different story, I’ve come to learn.
The ideas that sexuality and gender expression are more fluid than rigid had not yet come out (so to speak) when I was in high school. There was gay, straight, and sometimes bi. Asexual folks were rare peculiarities who would likely live and die oblivious to the fun they were missing. No spectrums, no varying degrees. No split attraction model. No mention of gender identity vs. sex organs. Everything was defined simply by the penis-vagina binary.
I am on the asexual spectrum. The attraction I feel is random and has more to do with the idea of connection than a person’s reproductive organs or gender identity (although I do prefer expressions outside the stereotypical binary). Sex can be fun but it’s simply not a need I have in order to be happy. It’s usually more of a responsibility I feel to satisfy my partner. I didn’t know this about myself for an embarrassingly long time. My physical, platonic, social, aesthetic, romantic, and emotional attractions to individuals and various types of people have always been exclusive of one another and all over the place, like throwing a box of darts into a hurricane. I did my very best to categorize them in a way that made sense to me but nothing felt fully correct. I wasn’t gay (because I’d know by now, right?) and bi didn’t feel right either, so I must be straight. Yes! As straight as a serpent’s tail. I like the boys! Yes. Yes I totally like the boys. Absolutely. It’s rainin’ men! Hallelujah! It’s … ew no get that thing away from me.
And I did like the boys. Kinda. I had enough crushes to pack Satan’s army and overthrow the heavens before lunch, but I lacked any contrafactual context in which to examine my premature and incomplete conclusion: that I wasn’t gay, because there wasn’t an active, definable, and sexually-motivating attraction to my own gender. However the absence of one does not imply the presence of the other. Had I bothered to honestly reflect on whether that missing attraction to my gender was present for another one, my life would have been vastly different. What was I feeling? And how does one even go about proving the existence of an absence? I’ll ask god…
My inability to differentiate and develop my need for connection from my idea of what physical attraction should feel like caused me to fall into step with those who seemed to have everything figured out. Fake it ‘til you make it. Literally! Assuming my happily ever after had a penis, I was on a quest to find the one that would spark in me this elusive drive that had all the sexy people on the prowl. Yes, me too! I also constantly desire the male appendage, hubba hubba! Let us ALL delight in its … pointiness? Honestly, I was just getting drunk and going through the motions, hoping to land on a penis that didn’t bore me after however many test drives. And boy did I test drive. The assumption of an eventual desire for the clichéd heteronormative endgame (a desire still unknown to me to this day) informed my navigation. Without an active and identifiable pull to any particular private part (which is what I assumed I was looking for), I had nothing leading me off of this well-worn path. I was asking the wrong questions and looking for Mr. Good-Enough-I-Guess… (while blaming alcohol for the occasional Ms.)
At this juncture I’d like to point out two things.
First, a reminder, my beloved beasts, that where I grew up in Jesusland, misguided categorizations and sexual repression were encouraged. In fact, it was a rather convenient license to ignore any feelings (or question any lack thereof) that I couldn’t classify – what I thought was my sexual dysfunction I simply chalked up to residual faith-based brainwashing. Most of the queer folks in my circle have known relatively early in life that there is something distinct inside them they had to identify and understand. That thing that guided their spirit towards a more colorful unknown – I didn’t have it. I wanted it. At least something might make sense. I felt like my compass was broken, the needle just spinning and spinning. If sexuality were a choice, I’d have chosen.
Second, alcohol was a game-changer. It allowed me to pretend I was having a blast while ignoring this one crucial detail on my path towards self-realization. My chosen carefree lifestyle deceptively equated to independence and happiness. The reality was that I was a mistress of denial and deflection. I was amassing life experiences and wisdom, filling the shelves in the Helle Bent Hall of Records, Recollections, and Anarchist Archives, but leaving one corner unadorned and unlit. Nothing’s there, this room only has three corners, nothing to see here, look a squirrel! I was actively closing my eyes and would soon outright lie to myself, silencing and internalizing my fears that I’d never have a successful, healthy relationship if I didn’t want to have sex with the person I thought I loved. Instead, I got blind drunk every night. Figuring my shit out was less urgent when I couldn’t even see my feet below me. It’s tough to forgive myself for this. I haven’t, yet.
Relying on destiny is the crutch of the timid. Being a Satanist, I do not subscribe to the idea of fate and I have no one to blame but myself for my blindness and inaction. The ghost of my inability to step fully into my spotlight will haunt me for quite some time. I may not have known what I was looking for or how to find anything I needed, but I inadvertently denied myself the honest exploration required to be comfortable with this kind of personal growth. It was easier to stay where I was, drunk, in relationships that weren’t right for me, than to do the work to break out of the ill-fitting mold I poured around myself.
So. What happened?
The traditional girl meets girl love story. I fell in love with a woman and that was that. No more rationalizing, excusing, or deflecting. The “I don’t need a label I’m just me! who knew?” period lasted about a day until I realized that stance was just a vehicle to further my denial. My card catalog of a brain (are card catalogs still a thing?) needed to know what this meant. For me, being head over heels in love was just the beginning. Something was still missing and I felt like an imposter in the queer community begging for acceptance somewhere… anywhere. Where the Hell did I fit in? Too queer for the heteros, too straight for the gays, too old to be only going through this now.
Here’s the thing about labels and definitions. When they’re created for the better understanding of subtle nuances in broader concepts, I believe them to be life-changing. They give names and legitimacy to ideas we didn’t even think existed. We are the ones who then assign rules and boundaries to their meanings. They describe us, they don’t define us. When I read a description for an attraction that included the phrase “regardless of, not because of, gender identity” I finally felt like I might be on to something. A dim light flickered in that empty corner. I had direction and a name. Ignoring outright both gender and sex, I could start the fuck over. What asshole drew this line in the sand and told me not to step over it? Oh me? I did it to myself? Oh. Ok cool. Um … well shit, this is embarrassing.
I write all this now with the freedom bestowed upon me through the daily vanquishing of my diminishing fucks. Through Satanism I’ve learned to examine the dark corners without fear. What matters is truth, and any value I assign to its meaning is my own doing. My desire to simply find my people, my community, my Self, to honestly and comfortably identify myself as anything at all, propelled me to jump headfirst into various molds, attempting to liquify my being so that I’d fit, like a cat in a glass vase. This was fucking exhausting and I was going about it all wrong. Please, oh Dark Lord of the Underworld, for the love of glamour and spectacle, do not let it be the one thing I don’t want it to be!
Well, it most certainly was that one thing and it was about to sit me down for a chat.
“You are who you are and you want what you want. Why are you making yourself miserable?” It was the last uncovered part of me staring right back at me. My identical twin – a total stranger. I was someone who always swore allegiance to myself, and I felt betrayed. Not only did I have to make sense of and accept an identity on the asexual spectrum, I had to come to terms with having somehow avoided this identity for as long as I had, only to insert myself into the queer community, mid-conversation, demanding full membership perks like I’d been to every monthly meeting since I was 12.
The stunning expanse of the sexuality and asexuality continuum finally in focus, I realized this whole sex and gender thing – it’s not an all-or-nothing game. The only rule is there are no rules … except the Rule of Consent, that is a very important rule, please always follow this rule without exception. My attractions and requirements ebb and flow like a symphony and as long as I acknowledge this, I find no conflict.
Humans do not have to fit into a mold. Words and categories are here to accommodate us and further our understanding of ourselves. If you have not yet found the perfect word, then we need more words. I am me, and I choose how much of anything applies to me in any given moment. I am a continuum. I am an evolution. I am a queer Satanist. Nothing has felt more correct since I was in fourth grade and first heard You Gave Love A Bad Name.
I am also stuck. I have finally grown into the person I am to be and there is one last hurdle hovering in front of me: forgiving myself for wasted years. Accepting my journey as a valid one simply because it’s the one that is. I have to make peace with the time I can’t get back. I have to cancel the false narrative that if I belonged here in the queer community my ride to this party would have been a shorter one. It catches me in my throat sometimes – this fear that I’ll be found out, rejected, and returned to the heteros just to be assigned to a beer-drinking suit-wearing penis-having cis dude who calls people “Broseph” and belches the alphabet just so that I can chauffeur his offspring back and forth from Jesus Camp while he is at work doing businessy things and having “work drinks” with his gorgeous and clever colleague who wants to have sex with him and understands his needs, unlike his wife … (Not that there’s anything wrong with regular straight-people sex if that’s your thing! I just don’t want to have it shoved in my face…)What do I tell your kids, RUTHERFORD Q. CHADDINGTON THE THIRD?? Unholy Mother of Satan please don’t send me back there!!
I am a work in progress. I am Jack’s Inflamed Sense of Rejection.
Next on my Pandemic To Do List: get the fuck out of my own way.
A Satanic Incantation for the upcoming season:
May we stand wholly in our beings, in our spotlights, protected and radiant in the flames of the discarded, having no need for that which does not serve us.
May Lucifer’s light illuminate what we cannot see.
May we trust ourselves and take pride in all that we are, knowing that it is enough.
May we never forget to show ourselves the compassion we so quickly extend to our loved ones.
May we use our voices to remind others that no one is alone. We are each unique within our broader collective. Someone has already survived what we are going through.
Hail Satan. Hail Lilith. Hail Thyselves.