Cassandra Snow takes readers on a queer tour of tarot reading. Check out the first eleven parts: Queering the Tarot: Justice, Queering the Tarot: The Wheel, Queering The Tarot: The Hermit, Queering The Tarot: Strength, Queering The Tarot: The Chariot, Queering the Tarot: The Lovers, 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
September’s tarot card is The Hanged Man, a card about being stuck — something we are all feeling as we wait out this heat wave, eager to embrace fall. Traditionally, this card is read as one where the querent is stuck and must cut themselves down or move forward under duress. The card can be about restriction: to sacrifice something you want now for more success further down the line, to make your point, or to further your cause. In contemporary decks especially, this card has also evolved to be about letting go, releasing your need for control, and surrendering to your current situation. With the Hanged Man, the surrender leads to both enlightenment and escape from the current entrapment.
Every queer person can recall a time they felt stuck or ensnared because of their queer identity and had to find a way out of the situation. Noting that the querent receiving the Hanged Man is stuck because they are queer, and not stuck by any wrongdoing or misstep on their part, is an important distinction to make. It is likely that at some point an LGBTQQIAP+ client has been cornered or silenced when advocating for themselves and their identity in the workplace, to their family, or within a social structure that developed prior to coming out. With the Hanged Man, being stuck means one of two things. Either you must cut yourself down under duress — advocating for yourself and your right to speak, and in the process risking who knows how much — or you surrender to the experience, acknowledge that you are stuck and there’s not much you can do about it, and accept that there will be unfair, painful times in your life due to not fitting a heteronormative mold. Neither option is wrong, and unless the surrounding cards clearly point the reader in one direction or the other, both options should be treated as equally viable and understandable.
The Hanged Man teaches hard lessons, one of them being that sometimes life is unfair or hard. We can work to change this, but it is the current reality. So our choices are laid before us: refuse to be stuck and sacrifice whatever is at stake, freeing yourself or surrender to being stuck, knowing you will wiggle free in due time. Jobs are important, families are important, other situations that may keep us in the Hanged Man position are likely a big part of the querent’s life and shouldn’t be jovially dismissed as something easy to overcome, when this is likely not the case. Only the querent can decide what the right choice is — but your intuition and surrounding cards should be able to advise further.
The Hanged Man has also queered itself in many a reading about activist roles, how to fit being an active member of the queer community into one’s overall life, and what to do when you are out and proud and being stifled by a close friend or partner who isn’t. Many times in this case, sacrifice is key and leads you to enlightenment and deeper freedom — you just may be giving up something major in the process. If you’re ready to throw yourself into the fight for trans rights even though it will out you at work, ready to marry your life partner in spite of your family’s objections, or facing a number of social and religious persecutions for making a huge, visible decision, this card will likely show up as a reminder that yes, this is going to suck. You are sacrificing something you care about for something you care about more deeply. It’s not an easy choice, but when we are in love, called to a role in our community, or desperate to live out our truth, it is the choice that needs to be made. Sacrifice in this case though, does come with a light at the end of the tunnel. You did the right thing. You followed your highest self. You followed your higher calling, and you can be sure this will provide safety, stability, and rewards if the Hanged Man shows themself in this situation.
Then there are those times the Hanged Man firmly calls us to surrender to the situation and ride it out until it starts to make sense. Many of these circumstances are much more fun to talk about, and certainly this is one of those cases where queering the tarot makes for a happier interpretation. Traditionally when the Hanged Man calls you to surrender it comes with a whole lot of resistance from the querent, and I don’t always see that when queering this card. For example, there is an idea of sexual or romantic fluidity that the Hanged Man sometimes hints at, and for some this can be a major upset in one’s thinking and identity when they find themselves attracted to someone they didn’t think they could be. However, my experience as a reader has been that when the Hanged Man comes up in this case, the querent has already decided just to ride this out and see what happens. That pain, frustration, and confusion has already been dealt with or didn’t factor in.
This card could also show up in times of sexual experimentation. If you’re really drawn to someone queer and haven’t experienced sex with that gender, or if you’re really getting into kink but haven’t had time to experience a BDSM setting yet, the Hanged Man is coming to reassure you that once you get into it, just relax and let your instincts kick in. Surrender to not knowing everything about how to have sex this way, and just enjoy it as you figure it out. This can also apply to happily and consensually entering a polyamorous situation as well. You won’t know all the rules that come with this new path, but that’s okay. You’re not here to teach your new romantic or sexual interest to others! You’re here to learn and experience, and the Hanged Man wants you to make that as enjoyable an experience as possible for yourself. In many contemporary decks, the Hanged Man even looks like he’s winking at you mischievously, encouraging you to go for it!
Being stuck, cornered, and having to make a scary sacrifice never feels good. The Hanged Man is a card that shows up to show you what your options are, and help you explore those in your reading. The other cards will help guide you if this is the Hanged Man’s purpose. If you are asking the tarot about a lighter issue such as a time of sexual fluidity or experimentation that you’re comfortable with, the Hanged Man shows up as that carnally driven friend wanting you to (safely!) surrender to new experiences. It is only through these ideas—either sacrifice or surrender—that we learn who we are and how to take our next steps.