1. Your latest book is Queer Magic, which investigates LGBTQ+ spirituality and culture from around the world. What inspired you to write this book?
My own experience growing up without strong queer representation in history and the media. Nowadays, we can turn on the TV and see a decade’'s worth of drag queens being celebrated, and the Internet has evolved to such a level that all the information of human history is there for anyone to search. The problem nowadays is that there is an overwhelming flood of information online. Yeah, everything is there, but it is so overwhelming that no one knows where to start.
On top of that, there are a lot of non-informed people passing themselves off as "experts" thanks to the anonymity of the Internet, and that's not even including the incredible amount of incorrect information out there that is just plain wrong. How is a queer person or an ally to know where to begin, whom to trust, and what's actually true when trying to learn about global queer history, spirituality, and cultures?
So what I've gone and done was help curate our global history and magic. I did deep dives into research, cited my sources, brought in native experts from around the world, and just tried to make a singular trustworthy source for everyone to have and see a positive representation of themselves. That is what inspired me to write Queer Magic.
2. Why do you feel that this was a book that needed to be written?
The times. These are tough times for our queer community, and living in such hard times, we all need heroes to inspire us. Queer Magic was written to be a reminder to our tribe that we weren't always so maligned.
This is important, especially for younger people, because we have a funny way of looking at history when we're young. Around middle school, high school, and even throughout our twenties we're living in those unique ages wherein we're old enough to have a good concept of history, yet we don't really possess enough life experience to have personally witnessed dramatic cultural shifts in society. At those ages, we tend to think that this is how things will always be because it's all we've ever experienced for twenty or thirty years. We don't realize how quickly and easily everything can change for better or for worse.
From my own personal experience, I was a born at the very end of the Reagan era, but it wasn't until the Bush, Jr. era that I started really understanding history. Then came Obama and queer rights advances, and I thought the world was just always gonna get progressively better. Along came November 2016, and BAM! The pendulum swung right back the other way. It's been barely a year and a half, and look at all the progressive advances that have been taken away.
But in the words of that sage prophet, Axl Rose, "Nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain." So for now while the pendulum is swinging backwards (and for the future times when it swings backwards again, because it will), this book will, hopefully, remind our queer tribe that they have always been strong, always existed, always have had power, and will always survive.
3. How has your educational background (you have degrees in both Global Studies and Latin American & Iberian Studies) influenced your books, including both Queer Magic and La Santa Muerte?
I wouldn't say they influenced my books so much as they helped to prep me to write my books. Truth be told, college/university is really just a game you've gotta play nowadays. Aside from certain sciences, unless you get your Master's (and even then, it's usually only on a singular, very specific subtopic of what your field entails), higher education is just an expensive "advanced high school" class you need to take for at least four years so that you don't have to lie on your résumé when applying for pretty much any job nowadays.
No, the real value of college is a mix of exposing yourself to new ways of thinking, learning how to do research, and training yourself to present these new ideas to be backed up by facts. That is exactly how my degrees contributed to both books. Through those four years, I had pre-exposed myself to many of the ideas and perspectives around the world that would be featured in my books, I had learned how to do professional research so as to be able to sift through tons of information and select the most important pieces, and I was trained to present proof of the validity of my information vía citing my sources so that the reader wouldn't have to take anything I tell them at face value.
Had my Global Studies and Latin American & Iberian Studies classes not drilled all of that into me, both Queer Magic and La Santa Muerte would've been of poorer quality, with less information, and no justification for the reader to trust anything in them. So, essentially, my degrees indirectly taught me how to write professionally, and with those skills, I wrote professional books.
4. Queer Magic spans both the globe and time in its scope, with information on cultures all over the world and traditions and spirituality ranging from ancient to modern. Perhaps you can explain your methods as you researched Queer Magic.
My methods were pretty academic, but because people learn best when their having fun and being entertained, it always began with a bit of razzle dazzle sensationalism. By this I mean I had to always keep in mind that I was writing a book and not thesis. A simple, dry presentation of the factual fruits of my research might be perfect to garner approval from the intelligentsia, but that would be too boring for the everyday person like you and me. I wouldn't want to spend my time reading that; it's not entertaining. Thus it would've been counterproductive to write an informational book that is so dry that no one would want to read it.
So, I would always begin by focusing on sensational queer cultural facts that I remember having really caught my attention, such as the orgies of ancient Greece, the extreme gender and spiritual fluidity of Siberian shamans, and badass lesbian nuns who challenged the patriarchy in colonial Mexico (to name just a few). Those were the things I wanted to know more about, and so it made sense that a lot of other people would be fascinated by those topics, too. Then I would do deep research into those sensationalist topics to find out what was actually true, and since everything in history is really kind of interconnected due to nothing existing in a vacuum, that big attention-grabbing topic would leads to lots of other topics, and the research would just flow from there. You've gotta keep them entertained.
5. What do you hope your readers take away from Queer Magic?
I really hope they take away a sense of unity with the global queer community that has always existed throughout human history. You may feel weird, or different, or that you don't belong, but there really is nothing new under the sun. There are people who have walked this Earth and deities who have reigned in various eras who have done so with the same queer feelings and outlook as you. But we don't know what we don't know, so we feel alone because we don't know anyone like us. Queer Magic will expose you to your tribe, your gods, and your unique magical power as a queer individual because, well, now you'd know.