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Queering the Tarot

Queering the Tarot


A new, queerer take on an ancient form of art.

Learning to read tarot cards was a transformative experience that fell into my lap when I was struggling with my sexual identity, recovering from sexual assault, and living with a roommate whose manipulations I hadn’t even begun to comprehend. Tarot provided an outside eye, fresh insight, and a look into the future I was headed towards. It wasn’t long before I started reading for other people, which led to the decision to go professional.

This decision was largely due to my need to spend as much of my life creating transformative experiences as possible, the same need that caused my business partner and I to create our queer, feminist theatre company, Gadfly Theatre Productions. It’s also why, after several years of reading for other people, I became increasingly dissatisfied with the gendered, heteronormative interpretations all too standard in tarot.

When I was reading for myself, it was easy to turn kings into queens — or vice-versa on very rare occasions — and it was even easier to decide that the qualities we consider gendered didn’t have to be. Reading for other people also means running up against their perceptions of those words and fighting bad readings from other, non-inclusive psychic encounters they’ve had. I developed a language so that members of the LGBTQIA* community would be able to get a personalized, professional reading that was easy to understand, relevant to their lives, and current to 2014. I’ve managed to do so while still respecting the traditional meanings of the cards, because tarot is about the cards, but it’s also about using your own gifts of intuition, perception, and dare I say—clairvoyance to provide the best advice and experience for clients, so I didn’t stop at queer identity and reevaluation of gender roles.

One day while reading for a member of the local BDSM community, different takes on words and ideas like “bondage” and “control” became crystal clear, so I developed those interpretations further. Then while exploring that, I realized I was leaving out my poly friends and clients, which is a substantial and important base. I definitely want to serve them as well, so I reexamined cards about choices, spicing up relationships, and even how I perceived new relationships when seen in the tarot, and adjusted my thinking on that matter. I’m not changing the tarot (although I am writing a queer-specific tarot deck in my down time). I’m just using my own evolution as an activist and queer person to bring the tarot into 2014. Even my cisgender heterosexual clients have little use for some of the outdated gender norms ascribed by the tarot, and as you and I explore queering the tarot together, we’ll look at what’s still relevant and useful and what isn’t.

Which brings us to why I’m writing this series. While I highly encourage everyone to seek professional psychic readings, a large amount of people read for themselves, or are scared to seek this form of guidance because of the traditional archaic interpretations, and alternate meanings of the tarot should be available widely. I’m also, admittedly, writing in hopes that other readers will reevaluate how they interact with clients who are queer, kinky, or polyamorous. There are a large amount of cards that aren’t about romantic and sexual relationships, but if your identity is one that our society marginalizes, that ostracization colors everything from how comfortable you feel in a professional setting, to where you might choose to live, to how easily you adapt to personal and spiritual changes, and having that awareness of your own (or a client’s) experience going into a reading makes the difference between a good, relevant reading and a knock-your-socks-off transformative experience. So please join me as we take the standard tarot journey together, from The Fool to the King of Pentacles and queer it up every step of the way.


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