Cassandra Snow takes readers on a queer tour of tarot reading. Check out the first six parts: Queering the Tarot: The Hierophant, Queering the Tarot: The Emperor, The Empress, and Archaic Gender Roles, Queering the Tarot: The High Priestess, Queering The Tarot: The Magician, Queering the Tarot, and Queering the Tarot: Let’s Start at the Very Beginning
The Lovers card immediately invokes images of love and passion from the querant. While this is not always true, and frequently the card is included in a deck to indicate major choices that must be made, it’s always easier to start with the framework the client will jump to. The lovers in most decks are overseen by a third party—a spiritual entity that ensures the couple’s happiness and success, or serving as a temptation or seems to know something our lovers do not. In many decks, the Lovers and the Devil card which indicates temptation and addiction almost mirror each other. This is not accident. There comes a time in a courtship when the pheromones fade and we have to decide if we’re in this for good or not. This is why The Lovers indicates both the wild attraction of new love, the harmony necessary in a relationship for it grow, or those fork-in-the-road choices that must be made for our own good.
For queer clients, it can be a little off-putting that in a significant majority of decks, the Lovers are usually two naked cisgender people of opposite gender. This has taken clients out of the reading before—your first course of action when queering The Lovers should be to assure the client/your friend/yourself that tarot can be inclusive and while these featured archetypes are outdated, they can still be applied to our lives. Once that reassurance is made, then what? The Lovers message seems straight forward enough regardless of identity, so why worry about queering it?
I’ve talked before in this column about how queer people derive a sense of community from shared experience of marginalization and self-examination that is unique to the queer experience. It is important to take those experiences into account when reading The Lovers in a spread. For starters, while we may not mean to, a collective unconscious of what relationships are and what they look like does creep into most of our brains when we are being raised in our heteronormative society, and many people—even people who are LGBTQQIA* themselves—may see that progress of a relationship as following the same path a straight couple likely does. In many cases the hard choice does not come in deciding to get married and have kids or not, or pursue a career opportunity that could take you away from your lover. These are the situations I most frequently see with non-queer clients, and while those certainly can and do come up when the querant is queer, there are other places they derive from too.
For starters, those new attractions we see with The Lovers sometimes should never be assumed to be any gender unless the client has told you otherwise, especially if we do get a sense of hard choices being attached to this card. I have seen The Lovers indicate sexual fluidity or awaken a non-monosexual identity in a client before, and I have seen closeted clients fidget nervously and eventually admit it was someone of the same gender as them. I have seen the “hard choice” aspect of this card lead to the decision to open a relationship for the first time, or alternatively, end a poly relationship or lifestyle. Then there’s the uncomfortable truth of queer relationships—not everyone is as comfortable or ready to be in an out same-sex or queer relationship, and while we may start off head over heels for someone, eventually them dropping our hand in public or referring to us as “their friend” will start to get to us. At some point we have to decide what matters more—our identity or this relationship. This is a common enough occurrence that it is part of that shared experience unique to queer people, and The
Lovers exists to help us make those choices. The Lovers card indicates that moment when we meet someone new and sparks fly. It indicates our feelings going from lustful to emotional. Then it indicates the fork in the road. We’ve come so far with a person and now we have to decide what the best course of action is. The surrounding cards will shine light onto which phase of the relationship the querant is in, and in any case, the queer experience must be taken into account to help them through that decision effectively.