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Lee Lehman on Astrology as a Civil Rights Issue

Lee Lehman gave an interesting speech at a recent Kepler College graduation ceremony in Seattle in October in which she drew parallels between the astrological community and the LGBT community, arguing that astrologers face a similar type of political discrimination as homosexuals do.

During the course of the speech she pointed out a number of parallels between the two communities, and argued that astrologers share the same sort of mentality as homosexuals did 40 years ago with respect to what they do, and what their place is in society:

One of the major problems with astrology is that astrologers themselves do not recognize that the status of astrology is a political issue, and that the position of astrologers in our society is completely analogous to the position of gay people before Stonewall.

The 1969 Stonewall riots are commonly seen as a turning point for the gay community, because they acted as a starting point for the gay rights movement. Lee goes on to raise the question

Is the astrological community like the gay community before Stonewall, and, if so, what does this mean for the future of astrology?

She then proceeded to outline the parallels between the astrological and gay communities, all of which she later argues are tell-tale signs of political discrimination:

  1. You generally cannot spot an astrologer on the street.  Thus, talking about ‘coming out’ about one’s interest in astrology is a completely comprehensible concept.
  2. There is a substantial conservative religious community reviles both homosexuals and astrologers.  Thus, the practice of either could be considered to be a ‘sin’.
  3. An astrologer may find it difficult to tell his or her family, friends, etc.
  4. An astrologer could lose face in social circles for admitting interest in astrology.
  5. An astrologer could be harassed or even arrested.
  6. An astrologer could observe parents stopping their children from trick-or-treating at the astrologer’s house.
  7. An astrologer could experience job discrimination or delays in promotion because of his or her’s interests, and this is legal because belief in astrology is not something for which there are anti-discrimination statutes.
  8. The naming of astrological organizations using euphemisms, like ‘geocosmic’.

In the end Lee draws the conclusion based on these parallels that this is indeed “discrimination at its ugliest.”

Lee then goes on to argue that astrologers are acting like gays before Stonewall in refusing to admit that this is a political issue, or that it has a political dimension.  While she admits that the issue is much more trivial than other forms of discrimination, such as discrimination against African Americans or women for example, she argues that it still leads to a type of abuse through both hatred on the part of non-astrologers, and  even self-hatred on the part of astrologers. She asks

How can we expect to develop a true profession in an environment where a substantial number of practitioners are afraid to admit what they do to a stranger?  How can we move forward when we feel compelled to accept every crumb of coverage from the news media, no matter how biased or sniggering?

Lee then concludes the speech with a sort of call to action on the part of the astrological community, with the first step being self-acceptance:

When will astrology begin its march toward political acceptance, and how will it happen?  I don’t know.  But, long term, if Kepler College is to succeed, then happen it must.  The absence of freedom is tyranny, and as a liberal arts institution we are devoted to the arts of free men and women.  How can we teach and manifest those arts when we ourselves are not free, or at least attempting to free ourselves?

I thought that it was a really interesting and thought provoking speech, and many of the parallels that she drew were pretty accurate for many people I know in the astrological community.    What do you think?

Here is a full video clip of the speech from YouTube:

11 replies on “Lee Lehman on Astrology as a Civil Rights Issue”

Thanks Lynn! Credit goes to Lee though, since I’m mainly just paraphrasing her speech here in order to draw attention to it.

Chris – thanks for picking up on this.

I think that one of the legacies of the Sixties generation of astrologers is that there were far more people who participated in “turn on, tune in, drop out” than participated in political action.

In the 80s, the then new generation of astrologers was criticizing the AFA for “amateurism” – but that self-same generation never “got” that being a professional takes more than getting paid. And becoming a professional is just not going to be possible without some serious political action to change attitudes about astrology here and in other countries. My generation accepted the lie that we could just do our own thing and that was enough.

In fact, our stubborn process of ghetto-izing ourselves is simply guaranteeing that our voices will be marginalized.

I would hope that AYA is up to the political challenge. It would be a fine mandate!

No problem Lee! I’m glad that you guys posted it on YouTube. I hope that you continue to post more of your lectures there.

I agree that tackling the political issues surrounding astrology would be a fine mandate for AYA, and for the up-and-coming generations in general. Your speech has given me a lot to think about, and I will keep this in mind as we continue to grow and expand the organization.

Sometimes it only takes one dedicated generation to initiate sweeping changes, so I hope that this will take root with the people who are coming into the field now.

What chakra does astrology rule over ? All of them. Just as homosexuals (a word I find more tactful than ‘gays’), Astrologers receive injury to their heart and naval chakras because of fear and judgement. Looking at it this way, the answer lies in the solar plexus; through making a decision to polarize towards what one knows is right in the heart. “We have to do this.” However, because of the many many different kinds of astrologers and their different practices, the unity of astrologers as a whole is weakened substantially. There are even frauds amoung “us.” It is they who are in the public most often, which is a sting.
So, astrology must first become unified before making any sort of political stand and I do not believe we are to that level yet. Hellenistic Astrology, with its outward apperance of dignity as being the translation of a truely divine text, proved through its unscrupulous accurary in horoscopes, I believe, is the salient which will take Astrology to a higher level of esteem.
Astrology needs to reach the Heart Chakra of the public, you see. There needs to be healing amoungst astrologers first. Regardless, what is going on in ‘astro-world’ (down here on earth I mean,) is an extremely exciting time! Yet it is kept just to ourselves. We need some Vesta–we need to amplify this integrity so more people can see it and cannot doubt it. I’m not sure how to promote authentic astrology, but we have something that is just so sweet. If the world wants astrology, they will get it, for ‘ask and you shall receive.’ Gosh, people are dying for answers, just look at all the junk they read in sun sign horoscopes everyday ! We can do this ! Unite !

I apologize for such a late comment, but I only recently discovered this blog, and this post in particular. Good job, by the way.

As a gay (a word I find less clinical than “homosexual”) man and student of astrology, I can definitely see the parallels between the two groups. However, as a rational person, the differences outweigh the similarities, at least in my opinion.

While I can appreciate the intent of Lee’s speech, it horrifies me that she would place astrologers in the same boat as the gays in terms of “civil rights”. The reason is this: to me, there is a huge difference in the importance of “choice-less” civil rights (age, gender, race, sexuality, disability) as opposed to “chosen” ones (employment, religion, etc.). Nobody chooses whether to be born a male or female, white or black. However, it is a choice to practice Buddhism or Catholicism, astrology or stock car racing. Either way, in the civilized world, and especially in America, all of our civil rights are protected, whether we chose them or they chose us. But that does not mean they all have the same weight.

To say that astrology deserves “political acceptance”, and that astrologers should be able to “come out” and not be discriminated against, is the same thing as saying that people who get tattoos and piercings need to be protected from discrimination.

The fact is, I chose to put on a blue shirt today. Some people might not like the color blue, and they might avoid talking to me because of it. I also have long hair, and some people don’t like that either. But do other peoples’ reactions really affect me that significantly? In my world, no, they don’t. The same goes for astrology. Not everyone accepts it or believes in it. Does that really change anything for those of us who do? Not everyone likes tattoo parlors in their neighborhoods, but you don’t hear about them being burned down by angry mobs of conservatives.

The key word here is tolerance, not acceptance. Astrology is tolerated by the rest of the world, and that should be good enough for us. When we are put into concentration camps and exterminated, when we are hunted down and hung in the street, and when we are burned at the stake for our astrology, that is when we will need “political acceptance”.

We should especially not demand acceptance when the majority of astrologers blatantly do not accept modern science, at least when it comes to our craft.

I apologize if the tone of this comment seems a little harsh. I mean no disrespect towards Lee; I greatly appreciate her contributions to astrology. I just get really passionate about my opinions. Haha.

Jeremy, what is choice?

You assume in your post that gender preference is a matter of biology, not choice. You must never have run into women who were raped as children and simply found they could not deal with sex with men. Are they lesser lesbians because there may have been more “choice” to their preference? While I certainly would agree that there are biological factors which contribute to homosexuality, reliance on the position that homosexuality is 100% biology simply acts as an attempt to deflect the moral challenge of acting out of accordance with societal norms. And there is a pretty long history in gay and queer studies that the advocacy of the biology theory has in the past been a political choice based on the assessment that societal acceptance was more likely if homosexuality was perceived by straights as not a matter of choice.

I would advocate for homosexuality on either basis: biology or choice. And I would never minimize the suffering of people for non-biological reasons. Gypsies were put to death in the Nazi concentration camps right along side Jews and gays.

And until you have seen the path in which some people have had to walk because of their beliefs, I suggest you not trivialize beliefs over biology.


That is a good question.

While it is true that we do not have a choice in as much as we think we do, I made a choice to embrace my “deviant” behavior and live the lifestyle openly, so in that respect you are correct: “living” gay is a choice (we could debate on whether “being” gay is a choice for eternity), but it is one that definitely needs “political protection”.

I have a cousin and many friends who were raped at a young age, my cousin by her own father, but only one of the friends does not have sex with men. A few of them are quite promiscuous. I don’t think the inability to have sex with men because of past trauma equates to homosexuality, though. But that is another point up for debate. Is sexuality who we have sex with, who we are attracted to, who we have relationships with, all of these, or none? That is really besides the point for our purposes.

I was under the impression that the Gypsies were an ethnic group. Please correct me if I’m mistaken.

Your last comment stings, but I accept it. I really do not have enough life experience to support my argument, as I’m only 20. But I still believe that the discrimination astrologers face today does not match what the gays went through. It is certainly similar, but on a much smaller scale.

The point I should have made clearer is that when a person makes a conscious choice to believe something, they should accept the responsibility that comes with it, especially the wisdom to know that not everyone will accept them for it, and the foresight of challenges. Now, I’m not talking about “beliefs” such as a child born into any orthodox religion, because the chances of that person being able to actually, honestly choose that for themselves is slim.

I could go on with the above paragraph, but all I have to do is hold astrology up to that and you can see where I’m going. I doubt any significant number of people are “born into” astrology, but I may be mistaken.

I just don’t think the discrimination astrologers may face is serious enough to compare it to the struggles of the gay community.

[I sincerely hope that you don’t take our argument personally, as I had hopes of communicating with you in the future about astrology.]

Hi Chris, and Lee (in comments).

I think this is one of the most important speeches in astrological community I have ever heard (or read).
I can especially identify myself with the awkwardness of saying to people around that I become an astrologer, because I came into the astrological world with a musical background – a profession which many parents make proud today. I thought about these things just the other day. I am pretty new into the astrological world, and I am passionate about it, while in the same time my interests for music are waning, and believe me, I do not have easy times with this. Why is this so? Because there are many issues raised with this turning point in my life. First and foremost, as Lee pointed out, saying around that you are an astrologer, you would not encounter many excited faces and positive attitudes, while saying that you are a musician, composer or music teacher is something which is very well received and welcomed. Second, the stable life on a financial side you can make with music, is not comparable to the unstable life you can or could make with engaging into astrology [especially astrological consulting, and especially in my country], that is, take it as a profession. This leads to the awkwardness of explaining yourself to the people around why in heaven’s name you decided to leave something like music and turn into astrology: “Are you crazy or what?”. I mean, I did not leave music yet, but my curiosity for astrology is becoming stronger and stronger with every new day, which at the moment I can not explain to my self, and not to speak to the people who knows nothing of my astrological interests. I try to follow Einstein’s advice though: “Follow your curiosity”.

In short, it is very hard to announce my self as an astrologer [at least in my own surroundings]. I feel huge awkwardness, and the reason for this is simply the status that astrology and astrologers have in this moment in the world.

It is also a matter of trends, some things in the world today are ‘trendy’: being an artist, an actor, a musician, etc. Being a philosopher is not so ‘trendy’ as it was back in history, and not to speak about being an ‘astrologer’, which is somewhat a funny and non-respectable thing, and even ‘Is this a profession after all’, someone would ask.

It may be interesting to import into this discussion some of the things that were replied to me on my announcing astrological interests to them:
– “He-he-he, are you serious?”
– “And what is the point with all this?”
– “Where is this leading you?”
– “Are you crazy?”

Here are the replies I’ve got about 15 years ago when in my teen-age I decided that I will be a musician and will enroll Music Academy:

– “Wow greeeeat!”
– “(Big green smile)awesome, you will become popular”.
– “What a beautiful thing. I wanted to play piano, but never did, never had the time needed. It is probably a destiny. I wish you all the luck in the world (my high-school teacher on Physics).” [Imagine now his reaction, if I said to him that I will become ‘an astrologer’].

So, yes, it is quite a tricky thing, and we all need to participate in this ‘whitening’ of the face of our art in front of the ignorant world.