What is the Heathen view of sexual orientation and gender identity?

We live in a world where the two main religions have a long history of hostility towards LGBTQ+ people. That enmity is based on certain scriptural verses that some argue are interpreted wrong (see Matthew Vines and Imam Ludovic Mohamed Zahed for examples of those arguments). But for the majority of their history, most of Christianity and Islam have been opposed to LGBTQ+ rights. And that has led to the idea that there is an inherent LGBTQ+ phobia in religion as a whole.

That is of course completely wrong. If you look outside the Abrahamic religions, you will find many traditions that not only accept but value those who are outside the gender and sexual norm. To name just one example: In many Native American cultures there is a tradition of two-spirits, people who are believed to have both a masculine and a feminine spirit and who are valued and respected for their unique perspective.

But what is the Heathen view of LGBTQ+ people? Well, the short answer is: it varies.

The thing with Heathenry and many other Polytheistic faiths is that they are not ”religions of the book”. That is, we have no scriptures that we consider to be the authoritative and unquestionable word of the Divine. Although, there are definitely some people (mostly ex-Christians) who try and bring a ‘Protestant view’ to the Eddas and Sagas and will label people a heretic for not believing literally eveything they say. But that is a minority view and a rather bizarre one considering most of the stories we have about the Old Ways were written down by Christians, sometimes even to mock belief in our Gods. But I digress.

The views on LGBTQ+ people among Heathens will usually not be based on one or other verse and it can therefore vary greatly. In my experience, most Heathens tend to be open-minded but there are some exceptions. The typical ‘Brosatru’ macho guy who fancies himself a modern day Viking in an age he considers to have been ruined by feminism and soy milk will usually have a negative view of those who don’t fit into traditional gender roles by, for example, loving someone of the same sex.

And then you have the outright fascists like the folks at Asatrú Folk Assembly, for who LGBTQ-phobia is but one item on their smörgåsbord of bigotry.

Finding community can for this reason be a minefield for LGBTQ+ Heathens but it is most certainly possible. If you are looking for such an inclusive group then Heathens Against Hate has a list you can check out.

Another question you might have is: What were the ancient Norse views on gender and sexual orientation? The thing is that there aren’t a lot of references to it in the literature. I know of no stories about transgender people or same-sex relations between women. But we know a bit about the views about sex between men.

The Norse had a term, ergi, which referred to men who were considered to lack in masculinity. It also had strong connotations with taking the passive role in sexual relations. Being an ergi was considered a negative thing. So much so, that if a man was called ‘ergi’ by another, he had a legal right to challenge his ‘accuser’ to a duel to the death to restore his honour.

It is also interesting to note that the one who penetrated (which was seen as a dominant act) was often not shamed in the same way.

So, from what we can tell, the Norse usually had a negative view of male homosexuality. But does it matter to modern Heathens?

I’d like to pose the question: why should it? The Norse also kept slaves, raided and pillaged and did many other morally repugnant things. They were people of their time and their views were influenced by the culture they lived in. We live in different times, with different norms which also influence us. But we are free to agree or disagree with any cultural norms and come to our own conclusions.

From what I have seen in my life, I have come to believe that it is good both for individuals and for society at large that people be allowed to be who they were born to be and live the way they see fit, as long as they do not hurt others. Forcing people to deny their own nature only causes unnecessary suffering, stifles creativity and stops people from contributing their own unique perspectives to society. It is a loss for everyone and I simply cannot believe it is the will of the Gods. That is why I personally will always promote LGBTQ+ inclusive Heathenry.

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