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Radical Faeries  
 
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Rather than a group, the radical faeries are a movement. It emerged in the late 1970s, inspired by the thinking of several leaders in the gay consciousness movement including, among many others, psychologist Mitch Walker, philosopher Arthur Evans, and gay rights pioneer Harry Hay. The faeries of the 1970s reclaimed the traditionally pejorative name in order to identify with the gender variant sacred outsider that has appeared and reappeared in many cultures throughout human history.

Informed by a Marxist, feminist, anarchist political perspective, and a goddess oriented, earth energy, neo-pagan spiritual sensibility, radical faeries quite consciously rejected the growing gay assimilationism that developed in North American urban centers in the 1970s. The faeries appealed to those gay men who most decidedly did not feel "just like anyone else except for what we do in bed" to "come home" to gatherings of the tribe in rural settings. There they could find sanctuary, commune with nature away from the distortions of the urban environment, share feelings and ideas about the nature of the sexual "other," and wear dresses in the woods. The faeries celebrate the differences that separate gay people from heterosexuals.

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This reclaiming of the radical notion that gay-identified men have a special place in culture dovetailed nicely with the experiments in communal living that had been continuing with varying degrees of success since the hippie movement of the 1960s.

While some faeries, borrowing from the separatist feminist sensibility, wanted to live as far as possible from the mainstream culture in order to nurture the spirit, study magical arcana such as witchcraft, and be free to "view the world askance," other faeries came from a tradition of fierce political activism and were determined to make the larger world safe for gender variance and sacred sexuality by challenging patriarchy and altering the consciousness, mores, and laws of the land.

Both styles of faeries coexisted and shared their influence at the gatherings that were organized during the 1980s, at first in rural settings in the Southwest, and then all around North America, sometimes at designated sanctuaries purchased and maintained communally by faerie communities in the United States and Canada.

Short Mountain

The Short Mountain Radical Faerie Sanctuary was established in the hills of central Tennessee, near several rural communes that were openly exploring alternative consciousness and lifestyles. Short Mountain became the home of RFD, the Rural Faerie Digest. This reader-generated "country journal for folk everywhere" has been exploring non-urban gay lifestyle and culture since 1975, and it has reflected as well as informed the development of faerie consciousness and culture.

Short Mountain Sanctuary's annual May Day gathering, known as "Beltane" in the druidic traditions, has become an international event, drawing more than 300 faeries and visitors from all over the world to celebrate a spectacular springtime fertility ritual.

Nomenus

In the late 1980s, on the West Coast, a San Francisco based group of faeries formed an organization called Nomenus, which applied for and received the tax exempt status of a "religious group" from the United States government. It purchased and maintains a beautiful ranch in southern Oregon known as Wolf Creek Sanctuary.

While the faeries of Nomenus are anything but a traditional religious organization, the application, written by Mica Kindman, brilliantly distilled the growing body of scholarly work and oral tradition about gay male spirituality throughout history. Not only did the application prove persuasive to officials of the United States Internal Revenue Service, but it also is itself a valuable contribution to our knowledge of gay male spirituality.

Faerie Gatherings

Since the 1980s, sanctuaries have sprung up in North America, Australia, and Mexico, some owned by individuals who invite faerie energy onto the land, some designated as official communities of faeries. Gatherings are held regularly in these and other spaces, such as resorts and public lands, throughout the year, usually planned around the pagan cycle of holy days and/or civic holidays.

It is difficult to describe a faerie gathering, but there are some features common to the experience. Gatherings are "called" by some group of organizers to celebrate a particular spiritual event, to focus on some theme or topic, to work on particular projects on the land, or just to provide a time and place for faeries to gather with fellow faeries. There is a strong tradition of "no one turned away for lack of funds" (NOTAFLOF).

Organizers, known as "queen registrars," attempt to plan for the basic needs of the 30 to 300 faeries who arrive with camping gear and finery, ready to help with the chores or not, participate in the rituals or not, sit for hours in the powerful heart circles or not, smoke pot, explore faerie sexuality, wear clothing...or not. As in any affinity group there are among the faeries strong cultural norms, but the strongest tradition of all is that of "anything goes." This attitude nurtures the gatherings' remarkable environment of creativity and healing, especially for those who find the dominant culture particularly inhospitable.

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