Imp Kerr, The Magazine of Curiosity and Wonder, 2012
For The Jeane Dixon Effect, astrology is about holes in time and queer social life.
I first met the artist and astrologer who we will here know as The Jeane Dixon Effect at a gallery in Manhattan. I have loved astrology since childhood for its beautiful articulation of how chance becomes fate, but I’m not a systematic thinker so I never quite got to grips with its full potential. The Jeane Dixon Effect, unlike me, has a rigorous understanding of the huge spatiotemporal organizing principle that we call astrology. On hearing just a few facts about my chart, she narrowed her far-seeing eyes and calculated my year of birth. I was very smitten. For TNI’s Stars issue, I finally got the chance to talk to her more fully, via email and Skype. The fate or telos written into my chart is to be vulnerable in public, so it’s OK for my name to appear here, she said, but publicity isn’t her thing. I say this to convey the seriousness of her approach and also to make you understand that this isn’t just someone I’ve made up. Astrology is a strange practice with, as far as I can tell, no real basis in fact, but almost every day I am amazed by what wise and kind people can do with it. While we were working on this, The Jeane Dixon Effect sent me a question of her own, which I was supposed to answer alongside hers. The question was, “Why do you think the stars care about our little revolutions?” My answer is, as always: the unit of measurement of the universe is a human life.
Some people think that astrology is deterministic and puts people in meaningless boxes, but can it also be expansive or even liberating?
Astrology is not trying to trap you. It’s really more about holes, and all your ways out. When I read a chart, I look for every option and one of the biggest things to keep in mind here is that the chart you’re born with is always moving. This is super-reductive but maybe it’s helpful to think of astrology as a clock. You can take a picture of that clock and say it’s 4:20 and some odd seconds or whatever, but the clock is still ticking and you could later take another picture of another time. Astrology is like a clock with 10 hands or even more and not all the base ratios are the same. For instance, the moon takes roughly 28.5 days to go around the chart and Saturn takes roughly 28.5 years, but other planets are doing other things. At any point in time—say the time of your birth–from any given place, you could take a picture and that would be your natal chart. So you get all these planets as your signs: your moon sign, your Pluto sign, etc. And all of these are still in motion. Then there are the signs in the houses, and the aspects they make between one another. And all of it is in motion at different rates, making new compositions. An astrological chart can even keep on going when you’re gone. Every now and then I like to see how somebody is haunting the planet. You know, look up how my ancestors feel about the internet.
What do you think of synastry (using astrology to analyze relationships)?
Synastry is about relationships but it doesn’t have to be about love objects. Sometimes it’s just objects in love or in the struggle. You can put anybody in synastry up against anything. Sometimes we can even get a little synastry with those no longer around with all the things they leave around. Say you love a certain book or steel plate or cup or whatever–there you are in synastry with those who brought you that thing.
I like to think of synastries as objects in time, events. Here you have an intersection of two times crossed, this possibility for time to fold or double, sometimes to even cut or produce holes. Sometimes you can take a group of people, like a family, or a collective of some sort, and you can see how a given person goes out from that group or where they merge with it, or even see how an aspect common to the people in that group changes over time.
I like to make a composite chart of two people and then put that in synastry separately with each individual chart. Sometimes it’s not the other person bothering you; it’s the relationship with the other person itself. I’m thinking here about when you happen to be totally in love with some so-called straight dude as long as it’s just y’all two in the one on one, fucking and playing basketball. But then maybe you’re not so excited about relating to this third thing, which is to say the relationship you make beyond your closed engagement, and you don’t like the social means or ends of what you produce together. Sometimes relating back to that thing can be a deal breaker for people. We see this all the time—the queer who can’t take being seen out there holding hands with the straight man they love making out with on the DL because now all of a sudden they’re seen as a girl in a straight couple. I mean this kind of thing could work if the composite chart had a sweet Scorpio rising or a Uranian flare first up in the chart, but then somebody’s synastry often can second-guess it.
In general though, synastry is really about how we become somebody else’s transits, all of us just constellating in the time we still have. And when that clock runs out we often see someone else pick it up. I’ve seen charts where four generations of people are really trying to work a thing out. So many current forms of entanglement live in this flesh. There are just so many old stories bumping around; occasionally you run into or from one that’s here on accident, sent in that prophetic sense from itself, or even called to cut a line. But this is getting somewhere other than synastry now. Sometimes two concepts clash for a long time and often those currents are trying to capture our relationships.
One of the things I love about what I understand of your own astrology practice is that you address the heteronormativity/cisnormativity of mainstream astrology…. you said before there are even birthchart placements that can illuminate gender and sexuality and how it plays out in our lives… I just wanted to hear more about this.
A lot of traditional astrology is super-normative in terms of gender and sexuality. But queers and trans life is really good at reading from the ground and finding what they need even in those boring tropes. They know how to turn a thing out. We often find a way of dis-identifying that works well too. But so much mainstream astrological interpretation is ridiculously reductive on gender, even going so far as to deny some astrological basics. In every chart, regardless of the gender identity of a person, there is a Venus placement and a Mars placement, among other planets like Jupiter and Saturn and such. But so often, people will just pretend the Venus in a so-called man’s chart just isn’t there while they insist on dealing with his Mars. So there ends up being a lot of binary bullshit, like if you’re a woman your Mars tells you what kind of man you’re looking for but just sit back and wait for this man’s Mars to align with your Venus. It’s like the same positions over and over as if there’s only one way to fall in love or have sex or be a woman. And ultimately it’s weird because here you are working with this frame of archetypes where you have so much more than dichotomy and dialectic.
Traditional astrology says Saturn will keep a relationship from consummating, but we can say hold up, Saturn can turn it up if you’re into confinement, if you want to play out some scenes around let’s say father figures. Chiron—which in mainstream astrology is so ice bucket challenge-style ableist—can be the deep slow grind that falls apart, seizes up tight, loses control, folds a limp wrist or wrung out fist. Neptune can get real drunk in love or real into a transubstantiation kind of realness. Chiron and Mars together really move through things in terms of where traditional astrology just overlaps ableism and transphobia. Jupiter is so fat femme day on the gay beach. Pluto has that dark love on lock, where still water runs deep and running water is deep still. There are just so many other planets doing so many things. A transiting Uranus to the seventh house is an aspect traditionally seen as never having a stable partner, but now seen as having a queer one. Or two. Or whatever. I feel like this is starting to get silly though, because really gender in the chart is more haptic than that. And really sex is just feeling each other. This is the affective power of a queer/trans commons that can fall in any sign, but that only those willing to bend over for it can actually pick up or put on.
Why do you think astrology is so popular in qtpoc scenes?
Well, it didn’t used to be. And before that it was. And I really don’t know. I definitely remember a time in the 90s and early 2000s where it was so uncool at least in some of the scenes and places I was hanging out and I definitely know a lot of queers of all kinds who hate it still, but yeah there has definitely been a huge uptick in its popularity in general, especially in the qtpoc circles I see, but then you know, I’m into it so maybe I’m not the best judge here.
One thing I notice though is the reasons why the haters hate seems to often be grouped together. The foremost of these reasons has to do with feeling like astrology is essentializing, boxing you in, one more judge-y authority trying to delimit and categorize. A lot of people who already have that coming from structural oppression really don’t want one more and a lot of well-meaning astrologers back in the day wrote really bad books that are sometimes impossible to pore through with their cis/sexist, ableist nonsense. And then there’s the white lesbian separatist aesthetic vein that many people are trying to get away from. There’s also the idea that access to chart readings is often expensive and how knowledge of esoteric pursuits is classed. Some astrologers have really turned some people off astrology. There are also people who don’t want to be duped, who think it’s garbage: mostly intellectuals, or academics, or reasonable people. Sometimes people are just trying to be respectful though too, I guess, like not wanting to join all the appropriative nonsense that some people into astrology do because astrology is connected to different religions and philosophies.
I can say a few things though about why I think a lot of qtpoc are falling back in love with astrology and it’s because that’s who has been carrying this flame (sometimes underground). That is who built these tunnels. Astrology is old and has many forms across many times and cultures and it has historically been widely practiced by women and gender queers of many races, indigenous people, two-spirit shamans, high priestesses, disabled sages, witches, and weirdos. Capitalism, white supremacy, the cis/heteropatriarchy, ableism, all those jerks together at that intersection of extraction have always tried to relegate and regulate the practitioners of the occult because it is a very powerful social space.
I don’t see astrology as a religion or science but some people I see in astrology do see it that way. To me astrology just another space to gather in study, but it can be whatever to someone else as long as I can come hear them and find this language with them. Astrology is so often reproductive labor. I’m just here helping to pass it down. But as old as it is, it’s also new and in the making. It’s not done yet, archetypes can overflow and people can argue in that fun way for centuries over what affective claim some sign has. I think astrology’s current popularity is just an excitement about thinking through and with an alternative time keeping, one with other compositions of time and relationships on the ready to describe what is happening in our lives, what resources and powers we already have that don’t either on the one hand deny our power or on the other hand blame us for it in saying there is something wrong with us. Astrology is that gay science that doesn’t split subjectivity and objecthood.
Oh and astrology itself, as a thing, belongs to Aquarius. Queerness does too.