Hello everyone! Today, I want to introduce you to a friend of mine – J. Ryan, who runs Queer Street Tarot, and is the creator of the Queer Community Tarot. He’s a radical tarot reader who is committed to helping you live your life on your terms. His work deals with identity and sexuality on a deep level. J. Ryan has done some readings for me, and they have hit something deep within me that I didn’t know was there. I highly recommend working with him.
His most recent project – and one that I am very excited about – is the Queer Community Tarot deck. It’s actually three decks in one – Divine Feminine, Divine Masculine, and Divine Spirit – and uses creative photography to express the meanings of the cards. The decks feel very high fashion, and is extremely modern, and ultra cool. There’s a week left to go on the kickstarter, and it’s almost reached the goal – so check it out and pledge before September 1st!
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself! Obviously, being Queer Street Tarot, your sexuality is an integral part of your reading style. Do you have a specific style of reading that is informed by sexuality and radical politics? Basically, how does your identity intersect with your practice?
My identity has always been a part of my readings, and my approach to tarot. Some people say that their sexuality is just a part of them and doesn’t define them any more than their hair color, or something like that. I say, for me, I am a gay man, I live and breathe this life as a gay man, everything is colored by my experiences as a gay man. So, when I sit down, with the tarot, people inside and outside the community are getting my personal knowledge, the knowledge I’ve accumulated by studying our history, and insights as a gay man looking through the window into a straight world.
Interestingly enough, people who would consider themselves straight come to me a lot and find more comfort, I think, in being able to address the deeper questions, divulge the more erotic secrets to me during a reading. More so than they would maybe to someone else, who maybe they feel would judge them. I think it’s because a lot of readers come from mainstream religious backgrounds and that will include hang ups around sex, sexuality, expression, it’s all tied together. But my focus, in my business has always been about do YOU, do your best and live your best life. Shame has no home there in that approach. Does that make sense?
Absolutely! You are such an empowering reader – there is absolutely no shame in your readings.
So what made you decide to “come out of the broom closet” and read tarot for others, and then go on to open Queer Street Tarot?
I’ve always loved to read for others, it wasn’t ever really a secret. I started when I was 13-14. Frankly, it’s my passion and if someone has an issue with it they don’t tend to stick around in my life. I think that, for me, seeing the clarity people get, or even just seeing their mental wheels start turning, it’s rewarding. I helped someone rethink their situation, rethink what they thought was a shitty life and do something with it that they didn’t think was possible before. We should want to see others succeed, and knowing that you helped someone help themselves, it’s a rush.
All that in itself is amazing but it doesn’t pay the bills! So, when I decided to start doing this professionally, I was terrified at first. Absolutely, I ran through every question you see from everyone else in online groups. Would I fuck it up, would people be receptive, would I still help people if I was being paid for it? But the more people asked, the less time I had to engage them and give them a meaningful session when life kept knocking on my own door. Grappling with health issues, mental and physical (I get severe migraines that lay me out for days at a time), made attending university, holding a job, very hard and very, very scary financially. Becoming a professional reader meant that I could do something I loved, help people still, and take some of the weight off my own chest on days when I felt like I was going to have a panic attack staring at the to do list.
The final push was in talking to a friend of mine, someone who was very active in the tarot communities online at the time and she said, look, if you’re planning on doing this someday then why not now? If not now, then when are you actually going to do this? I took that leap and it was scary, it’s been frustrating not knowing what people would respond to, would I be supported? Would my messages ring clearly? Eek. But people have been supportive through and through. I really appreciate the communities that have embraced me, they’ve helped me grow and learn as a person and as a reader over the 4 years I’ve been doing this professionally.
So let’s talk about your decks! Your Queer Community Tarot deck is unique, in that it’s three decks in one. What’s your vision for the deck? Are there any cards that you adjusted the meaning of to make them more queer friendly?
I want The Queer Community Tarot Deck (the name of the project as a whole) to do two things: educate and include. Education is key for both people inside and outside the communities, and so changing some of the names gave me the chance to do that. For example, and I’m blending your 4th question into this one, the Devil in the Divine Spirit deck is Dysphoria, and it gave me a chance to research it, discuss it, and bring that to others who may have not heard of it or who may not understand exactly what it means. There are other cards I’ve done this to, in order to better facilitate learning and seeing through a queer lens.
The second point, include, means that I want everyone in the LGBTQIA+ community to feel like there is something of themselves in these decks. So, I loved the idea of being able to customize and create your own community. We talk a lot about creating family in queer circles, so this was born out of that idea.
Anything else you would like us to know about Queer Community Tarot, or that you want to share with us?
I think if there is anything that I want people to do with these decks, it’s stop being afraid to approach themselves, we are all of us problematic and will eventually get something wrong or have something to learn. We absolutely need to do that together, and tarot for me has always been about reaching across the table to make a bridge with someone. Our work with the tarot, whether its spiritual, psychological, or sexual, needs to create a system of bridges between the islands that we have kinda become today. Everyone feels alone, feels scared, wants answers. I want this deck to be something that encourages them to open up, to reach out, and start whatever dialogue they need, whoever they are.
UPDATE: The kickstarter has been officially funded! You can pre-order the deck at J. Ryan’s website, Queer Street Tarot.