(From The Betty Pages, Bellingham's Alternative and Entertainment Tabloid, May 2009 issue.)

Hanging Out with the Radical Faeries

By Hagrid

Every Satyrday morning for almost two years, the Bellingham Radical Faeries descend on the Three Trees Coffeehouse to chat over coffee. Our motley band of queer men come together to share news, joke, gossip, and just enjoy each other's company.

"I like hanging around with people who understand me," said Sir Mador, who like many of the Fae, uses a Faerie name. "And I like hanging our with people who are gay."

Saturday morning coffee with the Faeries is a relaxing, low-pressure way for gay men to interact socially, without needing to go to the bar or the Internet. (Traditionally, Radical Faerie coffee is "men's space," but we don't discriminate if women wish to attend.) There's no agenda, no meeting, no minutes, no officers. But it's far more than just a simple social group. It's a community of like-minded individuals who see the world just a little differently.

But what exactly IS a Radical Faerie? And what's so "radical" about us? If you ask a hundred of us to define what a Radical Faerie is, you'll likely get a hundred different answers. There's no "One True Way" to be a RadFae. Each of us defines what the term means to us, and through consensus, create our Faerie community. Radical Faerie is not a title that one bestows on another. Rather, one must choose to be a Faerie, and you know inside if the title fits.

Radical Faeries believe that being gay is a gift, a special queer talent that we bring to the world. We straddle both the worlds of men and women, never fully embracing either, and bringing our own unique style of humour, playful social criticism, sexiness, and fabulousness wherever we go.

We are often described as artists, oddballs, shamans, mystics, nonconformists, creators and shapers, gentle old souls, madmen, satyrs, geeks, iconoclasts, wizards, and those guys with the OUTRAGEOUS fashion sense! All of these are true, and none of these are true. You have to get to know us to see which labels truly fit -- and then, we'll probably reject your labels anyway.

Spiritually, we run the gamut, from Neopagan, to Christian, to Buddhist, to Jewish, to a growing current of Atheism. It's not what you believe, or don't believe, that makes a RadFae, though we do owe a large debt of thanks to the Neopaganism and Feminist movements for our raised consciousness. Rather, it's about letting our own true inner spirit shine, as queer men, in a way that is unapologetic and playful.

Often, RadFaes will adopt a "Faerie Name," indicating some aspect of a person's nature., Some Faes choose their own names, while others have their names bestowed by others. That's exactly what happened to me some years back, when I was at a Faerie gathering in Vancouver, BC, and a 21-year-old Faerieling walked up to me and said, "You look just like Hagrid from Harry Potter." Joyfully, the name stuck.

Faeries often hold festivals, or gatherings, frequently in remote and wilderness places. It is at these gatherings that we truly let down our hair, and become our true selves. All decision making is done by consensus, and when Faeries gather, the normal rules of social discourse do not apply. It is when we gather, away from the mundane world, that we are at our most radical.

But I digress. We were talking about Satyrday coffee!

Instead of having me tell you why we get together every week, let me let' some of the Bellingham Radical Faeries tell you in their own words why they come to coffee, week after week!

Ted E. Bare, the group's only octogenarian, likes the fact that it gives him a place talk with younger gays. "I like the opportunity to hang out with younger people who respect me for who I am, and they listen to me," says Ted.

Robert places a high priority on face-to-face connection. "I value interacting with real people. It's real people rather than watching TV and living vicariously through celebrities."

Betty Desire's alter ego, Matt, often attends as well. "I go because I love the people who go. I enjoy the age mix."

Perhaps my favorite reason for going to Faerie Coffee comes from Chef: "I just like to hang out with friends, and bullshit, and drink coffee!"

Bellingham Radical Faerie Coffee takes place every Satyrday from 11am-ish to 1pm-ish, at the Three Trees Coffeehouse, 118 West Holly St., in Bellingham. Online info at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BellinghamRadicalFaeries/
Wow, cool, I'm mentioned in this month's issue of The Betty Pages!

The Betty Pages:
Bellingham's only alternative lifestyle tabloid

November 2007 issue, p.3:
Betty's Corner
By Betty Desire

...Activities for LGBT folks in our city are blooming as if it were spring! If you can wake yourself before 10 AM on a Saturday morning, get on over to Three Trees Coffee House and check out the new Bellingham Chapter of Radical Fairies. Haggard is the facilitator of this branch of what is one of the oldest organizations of gay men in the United States...

Oh, bless Betty. She got my name wrong (it's Hagrid, not Haggard, though I sure feel like it sometimes!), and the time is wrong, because Three Trees doesn't open until 10am, and we're usually there from 10-is until noon-ish, but at least we got some publicity!

And for the record, I don't facilitate ANYTHING. I just show up, and mooch drinks
and cigarettes when I'm broke. (Thank you! You know who you are!)

I'm no more responsible for the formation of this coffee meeting than is Whoretense or Rick, who helped get it going as much as I did, or any of the wonderful Faeries who keep it going with their company each weekend.

But, it's hard to explain non-hierarchical consensus-driven group process to someone who hasn't experienced it...

As for the "branch of one of the oldest organizations" part, well, the Radical Faeries are not an organization in any organized sense of the word, just a group of like-minded radical oddball gay men who like to get together for good company, good conversations, and the occasional outrageous outfit. I think Betty is confusing the Radical Faeries (which began in the 1970s) with the Mattachine Society (which started in the 1950s).

Harry Hay, the spiritual godmother of the Radical Faeries, was instrumental in getting both movements going, and could be called a "founder" of both groups (though there were others who didn't get as much press). I suppose that could be where the confusion is coming from.

But, hey, any press is good press, right?


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