I first knew there was something queer about astrology back in my teen years, when I first saw Walter Mercado on television. Though Mercado’s homosexuality has never been established, this flamboyant, androgynous, perfumed, bouffant, heavily-made up psychic seemed to me to be gayer than a screaming parrot on top of a banana bush. Today, the indefatigable Mercado (now known as Shanti Ananda) continues his psychic mission on Spanish-language TV and newspapers, though now with enough cosmetic surgery and Botox to put both Joan Rivers and Amanda Lapore to shame.
Walter Mercado was not the first gay/androgynous/gender variant to succeed in the field of astrology, nor would he be the last. In fact, LGBT people’s interest in astrology goes back to the beginning. “Gay people love astrology,” Matthew Pizzuti recently wrote in outfrontcolorado.com, “After fleeing from their parents’ homophobic Christian churches at puberty, they delight in coming across a spiritual system that has no god to judge you and no priest or minister to say that you are intrinsically corrupt. In astrology the key figures are planets, which are unconscious and therefore do not nag you about promiscuous sex, sodomy or tithing.” According to gay astrologer Jack Fertig, whose horoscopes appear in a variety of LGBT media including SouthFloridaGayNews.com, “all kind of people are attracted to astrology, but GLBT people have generally tended to be more independent thinkers so we are a bit more open to exploring ideas outside the mainstream.” For her part, the lesbian author and scholar Camille Paglia called astrology the “oldest organized art form of sexual personae.”
In the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, the late gay scholar Warren Johansson wrote about the historic link between queer people and astrology. As far back as 500 B.C.E., “a neo-Babylonian text... says that ‘love of a man for a man’ is governed by the constellation Scorpio. ... During the Renaissance,...the Florentine Neoplatonist Marsilio Ficino (who was homosexual) created a vision of the cosmos linking humanity with the heavenly bodies through emanations of love... In the sixteenth-century, ...Michelangelo ... seems to have assuaged his guilty conscience with the belief that his attraction to his youthful assistants (garzoni) had been decreed by celestial forces beyond his control. The first modern attempt to correlate astrology with homosexual behavior was made in the 1920s by the German occultist and right-wing theorist Karl-Günther Heimsoth. Independently, the American homophile Gavin Arthur discovered the occult tradition in Paris in the 1920s. In 1960, having settled in San Francisco, he published a book, The Circle of Sex, which correlates character types with astrological influences. Arthur is credited with having launching the idea of the coming of the Aquarian Age, which was to become celebrated through the musical Hair.”
Gay people continued to make contributions to astrology in the 20th and 21st centuries. According to Fertig, “Alan Leo was a huge proponent of astrology...Richard Idemon, and Tony Josephs wrote extensively on the connections between astrology and mythology. Jim Lewis developed a system called ‘astrocartography’ that is brilliant for certain geographical questions. They’ve all passed away, but some of the top astrologers today are queer.”
Among the more recent queer astrologers are the late Michael Jay, author of the classic Gay Love Signs: The New Astrology Guide for Men Who Love Men (1980); Pen Vassar, who coined the word “Homostrology” and whose horoscopes appear on his website homostrology.com; Lee Lehman, whom Fertig describes as “absolutely one of the best astrologers now practicing;” Michael Lutin, whose “approach is incredibly insightful and hysterically funny;” and, of course, Fertig.
Is there anything specifically “gay” about astrology? According to Fertig, “altogether no, but the constellation Aquarius (ruled by Uranus) is actually Ganymede, the boy that Zeus fell in love with and made cup-bearer (water carrier) for the gods. ... A frequent question through the millennia has been if there’s an astrological ‘signature’ for homosexuality or however queerness was understood before that word was coined on May 6, 1868. Sexuality is actually much more complicated than that.”
Joe Perez, author of Soulfully Gay, wrote in gayspirituality.typepad.com that “many astrologers believe that there is no one ‘gay signature’ in a birth chart but that there are a variety of astrological factors that can indicate a predisposition towards homosexuality. There never has been a comprehensive study of homosexuality in birth charts, so there’s no hard evidence regarding exactly what this signature might be. Even though sexual orientation may not be predictable from the birth chart, some schools of astrology maintain that the chart can help us to understand the universal spiritual lessons we are here to learn through our homosexuality.” With that in mind, Perez devised a “Stonewall Chart” for our community dated June 28, 1969, the date of the Stonewall Uprising.
One of Fertig’s major contributions to the science of astrology is his study of “Uranus: The Queer Planet.” In a lengthy article of that same name (found in starjack.com), Fertig describes Uranus as “the Sky-god, stormy, windy, unpredictable, the first male principle who joined with Mother Earth in the very beginning and has not embraced a woman since.
But we do find in mythology a number of same-sex lovers with connections to the sky.”
Uranus later lost his reproductivity when he was castrated by his rebellious son, Chronos (Saturn) and “rather than more children our sky-god’s seed is channeled into art and beauty. How gay is that!” Uranus also represents “the impulse towards science, humanitarianism, and anti-authoritarianism. Its relationships are collegial, and anti-hierarchic. From its first sighting it was as disruptive as a drag queen in an NFL locker room. And it continues to be. The anti-authoritarian nature of Uranus makes it extremely difficult for leaders to emerge in the gay community.”
Recently, astronomers from the Minnesota Planetarium Society stirred the astrological pot when they concluded that, because of the moon’s gravitational pull on Earth, the alignment of the stars was pushed by about a month, creating a new 13-character Zodiac with the addition of Ophiuchus the snake holder and a revamped astrological calendar. This does not disturb Fertig, who argues that this development will not affect the science of astrology. “Astronomers who have no idea how astrologers work tell us we’re doing it wrong. In other words, they’re making dogmatic proclamations about something they haven’t studied which is quite the opposite of science. They say that we fail to consider the Precession of the Equinoxes, a 26,000 year cycle which does in fact create a slowly growing difference between the astronomical constellations and the astrological signs. Any good astrologer knows all about that and we can fully account for it. That’s a technical explanation that fascinates astrologers but cause most other people’s eyes to glaze over.” To make a long story short, LGBT people (and others) will retain our fascination with astrology, and we will continue to ask our new acquaintances that age-old question: “What’s your sign?”