Judgement is a word that has a lot of negative connotations on it regardless of whether someone is queer or not. The metaphor in a more traditional deck is troubling to many: the archangel Gabriel sounds his trumpet, and the time of the final judgment is upon us. This word itself as well as it’s religious connotation can be especially troublesome to those who are not both straight and cisgender, having spent most of their life trying to avoid or heal from judgment, and in many cases needing healed from the scars that organized Christianity itself can lend to those who are queer. The card itself though is actually normally a positive one. You are at the end of a phase of life, and it’s time to do some self-examination, process the lessons you’ve learned, and moved forward in your life an improved but not necessarily new person. This card is also a strong indicator that you need to heed a spiritual calling, or that it’s time to live up to your ideals. Epiphanies or “awakenings” are commonly indicated with this card. A lot of times this card indicates a time where your karmic debt is resetting, for better or worse, and that’s where the “judgment” comes in—the really great, wonderful energy you’ve put in will come back now, but so will the negative. It can be a card of rebirth because of this reset, and in a lot of my “edgier” decks there’s this idea of ascension or becoming more than you were.
To queer this deck we have to look at it one of two ways: either both the reader and querent can get past the negative connotations the word judgement has to queer communities, or they can’t. It’s not helpful to try to push someone who’s really not going to respond well to a card, and in queering the tarot or taking any sort of identity-based approach it’s much more helpful to take your cues from the seeker (especially when you’re your own seeker. Please do not ever push yourself to “get over” something in a self-guided reading. Go with your own gut. It’s there for a reason.) In this case, we look at what Judgement as a card means, what the seeker is seeing in it, and we find the common ground. For example, someone recently aware of their own queerness might have had the higher calling to live their truth, and it may also have been addled with the realization that their faith community wouldn’t be supportive. Alternatively, someone who’s out and proud may get a spiritual calling to get back into a more traditional faith, and may have even found an open faith community, but unfortunately LGBTQ+ friends are not always understanding or compassionate about one’s need for spirituality, especially within a sect they find limiting. In both of these cases, both the card’s calling to living a higher ideal AND the querent’s understanding of judgment and the harm it does are both true, and both showing up in the reading. Another example could come in that idea of the karmic reset. I’m not proud of everything I did when I was in the closet, and I’m not proud of everything I do when I react from a place of fear or fear of being judged by other. I’m not my highest self in those moments, and when a negatively aspected Judgement shows up looking to make me atone for that, I have to either make my peace with it or try to course correct. Then there’s the idea of ascension or moving forward. That obviously looks different when we see this card as more negative. As a reader you might be used to the Death card showing up to say “Hey, this thing has to be over. Time to move on anyway, even if it’s hard,” but for queer people it absolutely can and does show up as the Judgement card. Judgement shows up to say “You’re right. Your family/friends/current partner/workplace/etc. IS judging you. You have to ascend and move forward anyway.” It’s a much harder truth than we sometimes see in this card, but it’s a really important understanding of it.
If the seeker doesn’t automatically prescribe to the negative of Judgement or if they move past it easily, this card obviously becomes much more positive again. Of course for anyone, regardless of identity, there can be lessons of evaluation and reflection, and that does show up for queer people just as it does for others. When looked at through a queer lens though, some of those lessons look different, and some of that “living up to our ideals” can have much more to do with speaking our truth, being willing to call out queerphobic language or jokes, or trying harder to give back to groups or communities that helped us get and stay on our feet when we were struggling. In the very tangible, very mundane, Judgement can be indicating we’re ready for the next step, whatever that is. If you’re LGB, for example, but haven’t dated anyone since coming out, this card says you’re ready to do so. In that vein, you could be ready for your first polyamorous relationship, or to bring someone new into your existing romantic situation. If your kink is part of your identity, there could be a very literal new skill or act you’re finally willing to try. For trans people, this card frequently shows up as being ready for next stage of transition, whatever that looks like to the seeker. I’ve worked with several transgender performing artists who haven’t performed as their true selves yet, and this card has shown up to say they are ready to shirk that fear of judgment and step into the limelight. The literal visual of a trumpet and what could be perceived as an audience lends itself to this latter view of the card quite nicely.
Judgement also shows up as a good thing for LGBTQ+ querents when it shows up as that spiritual awakening or epiphany. This interpretation can be straightforward, and not in need of queering per se, but it can also be intensely queer and calling us to leadership in an advocacy or social group geared at our identity (or some facet of it). Even with a more positive light on it, the Judgement card can still be saying that it’s time to live your truth and leave behind those who don’t want you to do that. There is a melancholiness in this still, but there’s also a lot of light and a huge promise of a better life for doing so. For most queer clients who can see the positive in this card however, this card shows up as a promise. It comes and says “You’ve been judged, you’ve been let down, and it’s been hard, but your time is coming.” Karmic debt for people who have been hurt but continually rose above looks very different. It looks a lot like ascension, and it looks a lot like The Sun.
Be sure to check out the first eighteen parts: Queering the Tarot: The Sun, Queering the Tarot: The Moon, Queering the Tarot: The Star, Queering the Tarot: The Tower, Queering the Tarot: The Devil, Queering the Tarot: Temperance, Queering the Tarot: Death, Queering the Tarot: The Hanged Man, 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