How to relate to astrology fans
March 13, 2019 7:44 AM   Subscribe

I interact a lot with people who seem to almost fully believe in astrology. How can I better relate to them without dismissing their beliefs or mocking them but also definitely believing it's all bunk myself?

Astrology is big in the queer circles I'm around, especially the younger ones. It's not like people are giving organising talks based on it, but short of that, they seem to believe.

It's really common for one of people's first questions as they get to know you to be what your sign is, what your rising is, what your moon is.

It's hard to tell if people actually believe, because the whole thing has this sort of memetic character. "Marxism is just astrology for theory bros", "astrology is a material science because the planets are real" are common sort of joking lines of comment.

People get judged sort of on their star chart. I've had several people explain how Cancer men in particular are all trash, until someone mentions I'm Cancer. It seems like a retroactive way of judging people - if they like you, they won't hold your sign against you, but if you're a cooker, then it's obvious because your chart tips us all off.

I'm unsure how much weight people actually give it. People talk about how compatible they are with friends or partners, but when the readings don't line up with their feelings, they usually ignore astrology. Except I feel that even faking it must to some extent shape how people feel about each other.

I really don't think I believe. I'm pretty convinced that anyone can read any horoscope and feel like it describes them, no matter how randomly it's assembled. Yet if I was to come out as anti-astrology, I wouldn't be shunned, I don't think, but people wouldn't feel good about me devaluing their belief systems. I either play along or ignore it usually.

I'm wondering if anyone has any advice on how to relate to this very widespread belief. I'd be in a small minority if I denounced astrology. Yet I'm generally uncomfortable with even playing along, because I have no faith in it. I don't want to alienate all the queers for whom astrology is an important part of their self-conception, but I usually think it's dangerous to ignore or condone this sort of belief.
posted by AnhydrousLove to Human Relations (41 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Is this not enough?

Person - What star sign are you [and the rest]?
AnhydrousLove - Oh, I'm not really into all that *changes subject in a cheerful way*

(Genuine question - it seems like the obvious solution, so I'm wondering if I'm missing something, like you're doing that already and it's not enough).
posted by penguin pie at 8:00 AM on March 13, 2019 [14 favorites]

You don't have to condone it by listening to someone talk about it, do you? I would simply say ah I'm not into that stuff and change the subject if pressed. Also, YOU don't even seem to think that it is "dangerous" since you say that people seem to ignore what doesn't fit anyway. Very few people actually take astrology as serious stuff.
posted by agregoli at 8:07 AM on March 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Queer who loves astrology. Do I actually believe in it? Yes and no. I see it as a type of therapy, where I bring my thoughts and expectations to an "objective" reality (my star chart/ tarot cards) and then examine the gap between the two and see how it makes me feel.

I don't mind if people are not into it, but it's a bit like New Atheism (Hitchens et al) where certain detractors feel the need to prove how extremely rational they are, and how superior their supposed rationality makes them. So I guess you treat it like you'd treat any religious belief. If you're not Christian, do you go around telling Christians there is no Sky God?

I do my friends the favor of not pushing astrology on them-- aside from the occasional joke, which it sounds like your friends do too. In return, I'm grateful for my friends who dislike astrology but don't tell me about their feelings. It lets me have my fun.
posted by coffeeand at 8:10 AM on March 13, 2019 [47 favorites]

I find myself at odds with many apparently widespread beliefs. It's more the rule than the exception. Many of these beliefs are just topics of small talk. Astrology has the advantage of being a type of small talk in which you can converse about humans and relationships. I even have a friend who is a professional astrologer but is quite intelligent and insightful otherwise. There's no reason to make a big deal out of it.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:18 AM on March 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

A little stronger than what penguin pie suggests, what about, "Oh, I don't like to pigeonhole people like that," or, "I don't share my zodiac sign because I don't love being stereotyped based on my birthday."
posted by coppermoss at 8:19 AM on March 13, 2019 [8 favorites]

Forgot to add, I don't know if you're queer but if you're not, consider that queer people have been historically pushed out of mainstream religion and it's not that surprising that we would gravitate towards more welcoming spiritual spaces instead.
posted by coffeeand at 8:21 AM on March 13, 2019 [13 favorites]

Almost anyone you meet is going to have some beliefs you find ridiculous. Sort of comforting when (a) they tell the thing upfront instead of your having to find out accidentally after a lot of investment and (b) it's as fairly innocent as astrology.
posted by MattD at 8:27 AM on March 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

My partner is getting into astrology in a pretty big way. I was raised in a more mainstream religious faith and am now through and through atheist and aspiritual in my outlook. So I've been thinking about this. Sorry if the following is a bit disjointed.

I look at it in a similar way to how a couple people have described tarot here over the years - a helpful lens for shifting your point of view on your life and your situation. I know that's not how my partner views it, but it lets us interact on the topic in a way we both find useful.

In a similar vein, we recently picked up a book at target that has small readings for each night of the year, some prompts to reflect on your day. The book doesn't claim to have picked these up from any particular belief system, I don't know if they went through any process to decide what day got what reading or not. But I think of it as very similar, the difference being only that astrology is giving you a process for deciding what day gets what reflection prompts (or forward-looking prompts, whatever).

More intra-personally, I've been thinking about how my move to atheism was motivated largely by a view of the world folks would call (and I did call) "scientific" - ie not believing what there is no physical evidence for - and how that approach has in fact blinded me to the reality that humanity as a whole has spent a long time thinking about this stuff. Clearly we have some need that is being met through the various faiths and beliefs of the world, and while the attribution to a spiritual or theistic reality might not resonate with me, the fact remains that these belief systems have thrived because they give us SOMETHING we want. So I'm figuring out how to welcome things into my life that meet those needs, even if I don't buy into the larger belief structure.
posted by solotoro at 8:32 AM on March 13, 2019 [15 favorites]

Oh this is very relatable as a queer lady. I have found it’s best to say “oh I’m not into that” when someone asks and then not give them my birthday if they’re pushy about it. And honestly I distance myself from anyone who really puts a lot of stock into the personality of friends based on their star sign because (in my experience) those people have quite a lot of growing up to do.

This is 100% not to say that I feel that way about everyone who believes in astrology. I actually deeply believe in the Enneagram personality sorter, which is quite different (but often used by Catholics so religious-tinged) but a very helpful way of relating to people. So I understand the urge to have an understanding of how you might relate to someone but I also think it’s shorthand for something you can learn by getting to know someone and that is something that getting older taught me — hence why I see it related to maturity.

There are mentions on Autostraddle about how you stick out in queer culture if you don’t believe, and that actually made me feel a bit better about it, just knowing I wasn’t the only queer person who doesn’t care or believe in astrology. Though I do think that Chani Nicholas, queerly beloved astrologer, writes beautifully and if you really want a shared point of interest then I always find some wonderful life advice in her horoscopes that I can chat with people about. I just happen to read everyone’s and not just “my” sign.

coffeeand makes a very important point. If you’re not queer yourself or even if you are, especially if you enjoy cis male privilege, it’s okay to recognize the important role this plays in folks’ lives while not believing but still respect the comfort, order and community it brings to those marginalized by religion or other traditional ways of meeting and relating with people. (Respectfully, if you’re not queer and don’t know this dynamic, maybe don’t answer this one?)
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 8:36 AM on March 13, 2019 [10 favorites]

I'm not on mobile now, so I had a peek on Autostraddle. I think these two articles are relevant and helpful to your question, especially the first even if it's geared towards crushes and not platonic friends/acquaintances: How to Talk to Your Hot Gay Crush About Astrology When You Don’t Believe In It and Believe It Or Not, Only 28% Of Queer Women Believe in Astrology (But 50% Read Their Horoscopes Anyway), which talks about why this is a thing (quoted below in my comment) and also links to an essay by the aforementioned Chani Nicholas, "Why Queers Love Astrology".

From the second article, and note there's a bunch of links in the piece if you want to learn more:
According to writer Sascha Cohen, the connection between queers and astrology goes back to the 1960s, “when the emerging women’s and gay liberation movements overlapped with a growing interest in New Age spirituality,” and many feminists left their patriarchal, monotheistic religions for various ideations of Paganism. Gay astrologer Christopher Renstorm says it goes back even further than that: to Ptolemy, whose work centered on the relationship between planetary behavior and sexual behavior, thus eternally optimizing astrology as “non-prescriptive and inclusive.” Famed queer astrologer Chani Nichols, in a post on Why Queers Love Astrology, presents several theories, including “maybe it’s because we understand that our identities come in as many variations as there are stars in the night sky.” At a Queer Astrology Conference in New Orleans, Broadly talked to a witch/astrologer who argued, “For me, astrology has always been a tool of liberation, and queer theory likewise seeks to liberate people from the language of oppression.” In The New York Times, Krista Burton (of Effing Dykes Fame) asks if astrology is religion for those of us without religion (and as we learned two weeks ago, a lot of queers are without religion), but concludes it’s really just a reflection of “millennials… acknowledging that the current system isn’t working.” We’re also just, you know, people — and this Smithsonian article offers a good overview of why people, in general, believe in astrology.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 9:01 AM on March 13, 2019 [13 favorites]

I move in a different subculture that has quite a lot of astrology believers, and I just say, "Oh, I don't really believe in astrology" in a cheerful way, and when they follow up (saying "oh, sorry!" or "wait, you don't?" or "come on, you're SUCH a Pisces!" or whatever), I just say, "I totally don't mind you talking about it, and I think it's kind-of fun, I just don't set much stock in it myself."

99% of people are content to leave it there, and they go on talking about their astrology stuff and I truly don't mind hearing about it, and I'm not judgmental about it so people tend to relax pretty quickly, but they don't push it at me or try to astrology-evangelize me, since I'm low-key not into it.

1% of people believe they have found the One True Faith in astrology and also are the kind of person who can't stand it if everyone doesn't agree with them, and they are annoying and there's not really a way to deal with them that doesn't involve either lying or being rude.

I do backyard astronomy as a hobby, so I'm actually able to find some common ground there, where I can talk about what planets make for good evening viewing right now or what constellations are easy to spot (a number of them in the zodiac!) and we can just kind-of share our enthusiasm for Jupiter, and it's okay that I'm enthused about it because I can see the four Galilean moons and they're enthused about it because in whatever constellation it's currently in it means some exciting thing. I'll sometimes forward them interesting astronomy articles I see that I think is relevant to whatever their personal interests are along those lines. (They will sometimes forward me astrology jokes, because they know I'll get it, but they don't forward me serious astrology stuff.)

And when someone says, "Of COURSE everything is terrible this week, Mercury's in retrograde!" I'll just agree, "It's definitely been a tough week" because what they're really trying to express is frustration and stress, and I can agree it's been a tough week without needing to argue about Mercury's prograde and retrograde motions and their lack of effect on human interactions.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:02 AM on March 13, 2019 [22 favorites]

My mother-in-law was super into astrology, to the extent of doing my and others' charts. Her friends were into it too, so I had a lot of casual conversations about it over the years. I usually do the breezy "I'm not really into that, but I'm glad it helps you" that others have suggested. If pushed, I will give my sign and mutter non committal answers to stuff people say about that along the lines of "Hmm, interesting", or "Who knew", or "Go figure" ... polite but not really engaging, in other words. If really pushed, I might do some redirection and say that in the Chinese system I'm a member of the Fire Monkey (and then throw out some Fire Monkey info. ....)
posted by gudrun at 9:16 AM on March 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

This is a really healthy conversation, for me anyway.

I grew up in a 70s lesbian New Age adjacent household and have struggled with my perspective on the topic of astrology.

For all that I adore underclass syncretism and rebel folk cosmologies, it completely eluded me that astrology functioned this way.

Thank you, Metafilter!
posted by Glomar response at 9:24 AM on March 13, 2019 [7 favorites]

If you'd like them to stop talking about it to you, well, I can't help you there. I've tried nearly everything, including some fairly mean-spirited mockery, and they still bring it up. It's not a subject that goes away easily.

But relating is easy. The very basic reason that most people seem to get into astrology is because of a desire to understand other people, which is quite a noble and commendable goal. I personally think there are better ways to achieve that goal, but it's something. Human behavior is complex and hard to understand; astrology can help make sense of it. It can seem judgy, for sure, but it's just a heuristic for getting to know more about you.

If you play it correctly, you can actually use it as an opening to drop some biographical info about yourself in. "Of course you're a natural leader; you're a Leo." "Well, maybe, but also, my parents divorced when I was seven, so I had to do a lot of man-of-the-house stuff and help take care of my younger siblings, and that might have something to do with it, too." Now you can have a conversation about what it's like growing up as a child of divorce, or whatever, instead of what random planet was somewhere on the day you were born. After all, that personal connection is usually what people are looking for.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:27 AM on March 13, 2019 [12 favorites]

I have a high tolerance for woo (tarot, crystals, dancing around without clothing, toxins), but I hate astrology because people have always used it as an excuse to say asshole things right to my face. Most recently, yesterday, coming from someone I didn't expect. Anyway, at this point in my life I have heard so many garbage comments that I no longer care if my refusal to engage in astrology discussion is particularly polite or not. Astrology is a reminder that I'm not actually welcome in places that are supposed to be for people like me, but then I would say that because I'm a [redacted].

Unless I'm caught off guard, my usual response to "When is your birthday?" is to say that I don't do birthdays anymore. My answer to "What's your sign?" is "Guess," tone depending on the relationship and the situation. No one has ever guessed correctly, which means they weren't meant to know.

(My fave asshole comment, it genuinely made me laugh: You're probably a Cancer because they tend to be writers who don't have sex very often. I thought this was hilarious, the writerly Cancers in the room found it less amusing.)
posted by betweenthebars at 9:51 AM on March 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

I find astrology fun but I don't think I'd say I "believe" in it. Most other queer people I talk to also find it just that, like a fun little system, something to muck about in, and think through, even if there are no real consequences. A lot like being part of a fandom. I don't worry about people "believing" in their fandom, and I certainly don't mock them for it, even if I find it boring. I indulge them a little and then change the subject, because that's polite.
One warning: several people I've met who don't like astrology seem to care way more about how much they hate it than matches the level of care that the person who casually brought it up for fun has. Don't fall into that trap, please.
posted by wellifyouinsist at 9:57 AM on March 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

I think the point of astrology, for most of the people I know who are into it, is less to take it as absolute TRUE fact and more to use it as a way to structure your own thoughts and feelings about yourself and your current situation, a way to relate to other people in a fun way, a way to contemplate a new way of looking at things, etc.

Just to give you another perspective: I am not really a believer is astrology myself, but I like talking about it, and jokes/memes about it, etc. It's fun! It's a satisfying way to connect with others about topics I find interesting (personalities, life, relationships, etc.). I also think that people who don't like it often take a very judgmental attitude towards it that always feels aggressive and dismissive in a masculine, hyper "rational" way. So in some ways, when people are into astrology, I find it comforting because I know they are not going to be jerks who think that being "rational" is the only and best way to approach understanding the world. I guess I'm just saying what other comments above me said more eloquently: circles where people are into astrology (especially younger queer types of circles) tend to align well with anti-patriarchal viewpoints and I find that a nice space to be in.
posted by aka burlap at 10:03 AM on March 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Just see it as a framework within which they understand the world, as is absolutely everything else. I can "talk" astrology. Certainly right now i'm talking about the Mercury Retrograde because i'm having a coincidentally astonishingly shitty time in life but i'm not sure if i'd call it an absolute belief. I don't think it needs to be for me to engage with people who are immersed in it. I also don't think you would find any person who would outright dismiss an entire human being because they are a Taurus sun.

You probably have several frameworks or lenses that you see the world through that gives you a story that cannot be validated by the external world, right? There are so many 'lenses' in life, very few of which can be validated by others and astrology is one of them. And that lens or story you have that is personal to you helps you navigate through life or through a situation. It's the same thing. It's also additionally interesting as a topic to those people.

If you do not find it interesting, just say 'astrology is not for me'. I know which people around me do not believe in it and so I don't talk about it. Just make it clear but it's best not to be snarky. It's not their fault you don't believe in it. It's just a fact.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 10:26 AM on March 13, 2019

I don't believe in astrology for real, but I do think it's sometimes fun to talk about. Obviously our personalities aren't ruled by a particular constellation being at a certain position in the sky the moment we were born, but also OMG I AM SUCCCHHHH AN ARIES THOUGH

(I'm also a Ravenclaw, a Miranda, and House Stark, for the record)

For one thing, you can safely assume that like 80% of people who mention astrology, ever, are firmly in that category.

For the rest, the people who are true believers in astrology, even after learning about it and thinking it through, and who are truly desperate to talk to you in depth about it? Just tell them you're not that interested in astrology and move on.

I live in Los Angeles, which is like the third most hippy-dippy woo-woo city in America behind Santa Cruz and maybe Taos or something. I frequently run into people who will say they were late because mercury is in retrograde, or that they carry an amethyst crystal because they have a purple aura, or whatever the fuck. I used to work in a yoga studio that was full of this kind of talk all the time. It has literally never escalated beyond me internally rolling my eyes and changing the subject.

(I am queer, if it matters.)
posted by the milkman, the paper boy at 11:15 AM on March 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

Oh hi from California, where I am sitting here knowing exactly how you feel.

Personally, I'm not willing to indulge it much, so I just am a bit jokey about finding the whole thing ridiculous ("my sign is Skeptikos, the nonbeliever in astrology!") and people have been pretty sporting in response. I think most people are somewhere on a spectrum to "aware it is absurd and just having fun with it" to "fully convinced but aware that a great deal of the population isn't."

I guess the other question is: does this represent a big enough disconnect for you that you might want to make an effort to find people who think more like you do?
posted by Smearcase at 11:24 AM on March 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't mind if people are not into it, but it's a bit like New Atheism (Hitchens et al) where certain detractors feel the need to prove how extremely rational they are, and how superior their supposed rationality makes them. So I guess you treat it like you'd treat any religious belief. If you're not Christian, do you go around telling Christians there is no Sky God?

I agree with 99.9% of this comment, with the small caveat that when people make their religion my business in a way that feels demeaning or insulting, I definitely consider saying something about my lack of belief in it / its lack of objective truth value.

To go back to your example, if someone says something like "Cancer men are all trash" it's totally okay to say something like "Using an arbitrary system in order to disregard people is...not cool. You don't know anything about him/me just because you know his/my sign."
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:35 AM on March 13, 2019 [11 favorites]

"tell me your MBTI and enneagram, and i'll reveal my asc/sun/moon"
"scorpio, you say? fascinating. which degree?"
posted by 20 year lurk at 11:44 AM on March 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am a total non-believer and have always been annoyed by and dismissive of discussions of astrology, but I remember the day a few years ago when my work team was all startled to find out that many members were devoted fans of a specific astrologer, people I had all assumed were really non-woo, including the straight male Chinese head of analytics and the really hard-core, hard-nosed, 90s hip-hop purist head of mobile products. I also remember it being a very bonding moment when suddenly we weren't all colleagues, we were people who were now talking about how those horoscopes helped in hard weeks, or brought hope or new ways of thinking during long slogs in dating hell or family trouble or career doubts. I was amazed at the power of astrology as a conversation tool to be an be an effective entry point, to quickly open up a personal, shared and comfortably confessional space so quickly in a way that our working together for a few years had not. So now I mostly think of it as an intimate ice breaker / short cut of sorts that is pretty effective for some people. People don't want to talk astrology with me, they want to get to know me and understand me. That framing is less annoying for me anyway
posted by sestaaak at 11:58 AM on March 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I have the same problem, and to be honest, I find it both irritating and not at all harmless (when people are saying stuff like "oh you shouldn't date whoever because [they were born in November and this makes them bad]", it's gross, plus I have anxiety and my poor hindbrain gets scared when people talk about Mercury retrograde and all). Just like religion, I don't do or say anything about it most of the time (casual comments or whatever), unless it's coming up very frequently, they're attempting to impose it on me, or they're using it to discriminate against people--which, honestly, isn't most astrology people. If they are in this group, though, I feel fine muting them online and minimizing interaction with them in person.

There are probably other people holding their tongues, too, so if you can do the equivalent of tweeting something like "hey [area] queers, if you're also allergic to astrology hit me up [friendly emoji]", you may find a bunch of other people who'd be relieved to not be swimming in this stuff all the time.
posted by wintersweet at 12:04 PM on March 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

Somebody alluded to this above and I'm going to muse on it a little bit more because it's something I've had to figure out for myself: queer people have a complicated relationship with categories and labels, and the astrology thing is related to that.

I've totally noticed the increase of astrology-and-adjacent statements and ideas when I'm in a more openly queer space. It irks me, but I also have a very spiritual bent that as a teen and twenty something manifested itself as a fascination with all that stuff too. And I think it comes from a similar place as the part of me that is constantly poking at my queerness and trying to figure it out, see where I am in comparison to others and my past selves. I love symbolism and organized labeling and categories and I know that it doesn't work that way for people, and especially not for me. But here is a whole complex system developed over centuries from different cultures interacting to create labeling and categories.

Much like how I use tarot cards for internal reflection and imagery, to sort my churning thoughts, I can bounce myself off of astrology and see how I feel about it, without it being a fixed concrete thing. There's comfort in that, and history in that, two things I don't really have in the queer aspect of my identity. So when somebody tells me I'm being such a Leo about wanting everybody to come to my party, I say, yeah, yep, totally, now RSVP or die. But I do see situations where a true belief in astrology is dangerous. It's limiting and encourages lies in a lot of small pervasive ways. I think at its best it's a private kind of practice, and not one to be applied to other people. I roll my eyes hard when it's used in the ways you bring up in your question. But if your intention is to wrap your head around why a bunch of seemingly intelligent adults would be attracted to an illogical system of people categorization, I think the key to that understanding lies in seeing the service it provides to your queer peers, specifically.
posted by Mizu at 12:09 PM on March 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Well, one question to ask yourself is what you're hoping to achieve with any particular conversation or interaction. kevinbelt and Eyebrows McGee have some good suggestions if what you're trying to do is maintain good relations with people.

Honestly, the chances that how you respond to someone asking for your sun, moon, and rising sign is going to make a meaningful impact on their individual belief in/relationship with astrology are pretty low, and the chances that your response is going to meaningfully impact the bigger queer cultural trend are so tiny as to practically be zero. So one internal strategy might be just to recognize that it doesn't actually matter very much, and to try to respond how you might with another dynamic that you find annoying, awkward, or disagreeable.

To be transparent, I'm saying all this as a queer who totally does believe in astrology and who often does ask people about their sun, moon, and rising sign as a way of getting to know them (and also just FYI I think Cancer men are adorbs and appealing and also recognize that all generalizations are flawed and like any framework for understanding reality, astrology is only partially true).

Also, if you're wanting a more fighty, attempting to stem the tide response, one time someone told me they weren't comfortable disclosing their sun sign, etc because it felt like another identity coercively assigned at birth to them. And my internal response was definitely to feel alienated but also I recognized the social power of that argument--which I think is especially potent in queer spaces, especially the younger, more social justice oriented circles. You could definitely modify that basic premise to be more or less confrontational as the relational and social context(s) vary. I.e., it could easily be friendly teasing-- "Oh, I thought you weren't about non-consensually assigning identities at birth?"
posted by overglow at 12:31 PM on March 13, 2019 [7 favorites]

While the folks you're describing seem to take it further and more seriously than I'd expect, I wonder if it's still something they only talk about so much because they assume it's a common thread for everyone else, kind a default subject that's usually guaranteed to start a conversation and keep it going?

For several different subjects like this, I've found that it's the expected default, but the second you say "Oh that's not really my thing" or change the subject, folks are happy to move away from the topic with you (rather than being all, "Well too bad because I'm really into this and am going to keep talking about your star chart").

If folks are persisting even after you've made it clear you don't want to engage, then either forcefully change the subject or think real hard about whether this the group you want to be spending your precious time with.
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:35 PM on March 13, 2019

Best answer: I have the same problem, and to be honest, I find it both irritating and not at all harmless (when people are saying stuff like "oh you shouldn't date whoever because [they were born in November and this makes them bad]"

Yeah there are a lot of defensive responses in this thread about how the responder believes or doesn’t believe and not a lot of addressing the actual complaint, which, to maybe condense a little, seems to be that in these communities it is often acceptable for people to be assholes using astrology simultaneously as their assholery delivery mechanism and their method of evading responsibility for said assholery. I too have had those experiences in queer circles, and it is uniquely infuriating. Like, no, you didn’t do that terrible thing because of the position of a planet, and you don’t know that I’m reacting the way I am because of the position of another planet. That is bananas garbage. Literally rottting banana peels.

Like that first autostraddle article is a garbage fire. What? No it’s not ok for a date to demand my birthdate in order to determine compatibility or what I’m really like with the expectation that I’m the jerk if I don’t. That Everyone is entitled to their beliefs; you’re not entitled to demand that other people share them or support them or indulge you with personal information. That is nonsense and terrible personal boundaries and imposing your beliefs on other people.

I don’t actually have an answer for this one, myself, except to say that you should treat it like any other belief system: fine for them, not so fine if they use it as an excuse to be an asshole without having to take responsibility for their assholery. Identifying and responding to the second scenario in real time is harder, and it is made harder by this weird queer cultural acceptance of this stuff as a vernacular. So to that extent I don’t actually think this whole “queers are into astrology” thing is totally benign, especially because, like...not to put too fine a point on it, but queer communities have higher incidences of people with trauma histories, and people with extensive trauma, particularly if it’s untreated, are often...difficult. And sometimes abusive in weird gas lighty ways. Which is how the whole “I’m going to make judgments about you or your experience or your life on the basis of the position of rocks in the sky” feels, more so when it’s got community acceptance. I I have trouble wrapping my head around the idea that queer people are fine with telling other people what they’re like or what their experiences are — you’re such a Cancer? What? — on the basis of arbitrarily defined categories. We do not like it when straight or cis people do that to us, so I have GIANT SIDE EYE for queers who turn around and do it to other queers under some other label.

So I dunno. Be on the look out for gas lighting, I guess, in general. People who use it the way people in this thread have described using it aren’t the people I’m talking about, but sometimes they do give cover to the assholery, and I wish that would stop.

I think you’ve got to decide what your personal boundaries are and then decide how you feel comfortable letting them be known in a respectful manner. For me, bc of the assholery, I’ll say I’m not into it but I get it as a ritual to help figure out how you feel etc. if they’re into it and believe in it to the point where that’s a problem, well...they are probably not someone I’m going to want to interact with much.

If that would genuinely ostracize you from your local community and that’s the only community you have, my real talk advice is to keep quiet about it or move. It sucks, but...sometimes being queer is hard.
posted by schadenfrau at 2:11 PM on March 13, 2019 [11 favorites]

Best answer: this resonates so hard--I'm a queer lady surrounded by astrology-loving queers--and I've found that none of the casual brush-offs recommended here work in this context. What has worked for me, and this may or may not be something you can tolerate, is having the conversations, but keeping them at the meme-level, or letting them be entirely meta on my end.

What this looks like in practice is that if someone asks me if I identify with my sign (hello, fellow cancer), I'll talk about how I always felt alienated by descriptions of my chart until I talked to a male friend with a similar chart and learned how it had always been framed to him (very differently), and that lets me move toward a conversation about how the practice of astrology is gendered. I don't believe in astrology (at all!), but I am interested in people, and talking about astrology can be a way to learn about how people understand and relate to the world. Another thing this can look like is asking people about their belief in astrology--how it started, what it means to them, etc. This teaches you about them, and helps shift the angle of the conversation.
posted by dizziest at 3:03 PM on March 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

My general rule of thumb here is to not yuck someone’s yum. I usually just nod and smile politely, but sometimes I think it’s ok to explore in a conversation. That doesn’t mean I have to believe in it. I talk to people all the time who have very different beliefs than I do. You can tell them you’re not into it, but don’t shame them or condescend to them. It’s by and large a harmless activity. You can generally steer the conversation away from an in-depth personality chart by simply and gently changing the subject. Obsessives are going to obsess, so you have to make the call there. Like, I wouldn’t want to engage with folks who incessantly talk about bitcoin either.

If they are shaming people, or trash talking others based on astrology. . .it’s my experience that even if they didn’t have astrology to point to, these are people who will trash talk others regardless. I avoid these people, just as I avoid trash talkers in general.

If it’s someone you like, eventually they will take the hint and not bring it up. People who are blind to social cues like this don’t generally make good friends anyway.
posted by ananci at 3:03 PM on March 13, 2019 [6 favorites]

I'd add, too, that anyone who genuinely believes that all people born in X month are bad is an asshole. And their main problem is being a jerk, not believing in astrology. And you are in no way required to be nice back to them when they talk that way.
posted by the milkman, the paper boy at 3:10 PM on March 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I’m not into astrology per se, but I know people like who you’re describing and it’s basically a form of socially sanctioned gossip. So it sounds like there are two issues— you think it’s bunk, and you don’t like gossip.

The best you can do is probably smile and nod with some light teasing back. The worst you can do is go on an anti-spiritualism crusade or something, because they most likely don’t give a shit about that part, they just like talking about feelings.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:12 PM on March 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

just to be clear, I’m not particularly anti-gossip either. But in a big way, astrology is a way of “taking back” something viewed as frivolous, unproductive, essentially “female.” I think that’s a big reason why people who ID as queer are into it.

It’s like someone calling themselves a bitch. Is being a “bitch” something to be proud of? No. But it’s an attempt to reclaim some part of your identity through a dialectic with the thing being used to oppress you. “Oh, I’m a bitch for not wanting to have sex with you? I guess A BITCH would key your car, too! Oop!”

Astrology is much the same. “Oh, I’m a frivolous idiot/girl for being interested in therapy and feelings and interpersonal relationships? Guess I sound like the sort of idiot who would read tarot too, so I better do it!” It’s post-ironic, maybe! But it has the dual benefits of being performative AND fun. And a lot of non-queer men massively don’t get it for that reason.

Ideally it is also respectful of tarot, etc. as a spiritual practice, in the sense of not further marginalizing the already marginalized. But regardless, it’s a way of sort of belligerently, unapologetically being interested in psychology and spirituality without making it into an academic program.

It doesn’t give someone license to be an asshole but I mean, if you don’t believe in astrology, why get offended when they smack talk Cancer men?
posted by stoneandstar at 3:21 PM on March 13, 2019 [4 favorites]

(Didn’t mean to imply you’re a man who isn’t queer, idk anything about you, just have noticed there’s a huge divide between astrology cutie painting watercolors of their chart and guy who drinks Soylent going “can you believe how stupid this non-STEM graduate is”)
posted by stoneandstar at 3:23 PM on March 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

Last comment, for real: on a gut level it’s also a very satisfying way of reifying the concept that we all hold a certain amount of bias, assumptions, unexamined beliefs around with us, from the chart reader to the technocrat. You could argue it’s a form of classifying and tribalizing people without bringing race, gender, etc. into it. It’s like sports. It’s playing with categories, which queer people often love to do. It’s a way of talking about people while acknowledging the slippage and incompleteness of any read on an interpersonal situation. It’s basically just... fun.

Ultimately you can make a lot of arguments that it’s bad because it’s fake or whatever, but I think the usual response will be “ah yes because you’ve found the one true Rosetta Stone to human nature, right?”

At worst it’s a bit cynical about rationalism and scientific progress (which has both overpromised a utopia and underdelivered in the form of brutalizing many people).
posted by stoneandstar at 3:28 PM on March 13, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It doesn’t give someone license to be an asshole but I mean, if you don’t believe in astrology, why get offended when they smack talk Cancer men?

Ok, this is deeply ironic.

OP, I’d suggest that if people don’t understand why you might find it offensive to be put in a made up category and then told what and who you are on the basis of that category, they are not people who are going to be good at listening to or seeing you as a full, unique person with your own unique experiences and worldview, and so they might not be safe to be that full, vulnerable version of yourself with.

I think the best we can do under these circumstances is treat it as a filter.
posted by schadenfrau at 3:38 PM on March 13, 2019 [9 favorites]

Best answer: did I post this in my sleep? I'm a queer lady in los angeles. that's astrology squared. it's only gotten more extreme in the last couple years, and more frustrating. we're not talking reading weekly horoscopes for fun. we're talking friends group convos for hours, strangers insisting on giving me a reading at bars, scores of dating profiles that rule out earth signs or whatever, meme after meme after meme. that's such a leo thing to say. free entry for capricorns! I can only love another water sign.

there's obviously a spectrum of belief, with just-for-fun on one end. but there are also plenty of diehard believers -- even educated, otherwise skeptical ones -- and when it surrounds you on the daily, even a "yeah I'm not into astrology," feels bold & risky. (big guns: "I have a fraternal twin who is nothing like me.") at best, it's mildly irritating. at worst, it's like being agnostic in a christian playgroup that looooves to talk about jesus! but this is my wondrously diverse queer family from dozens of backgrounds and countries, proud to defy categorization. except astrology.

I do think it's largely in part to the nonreligious or religiously-shunned gravitating toward a more open spirituality, like coffeeand suggested. I also try to look at it solotoro said: "a helpful lens for shifting your point of view on your life and your situation." but like other religions or spiritual belief systems, I don't think it's entirely harmless, especially in this current era of fake news & pseudoscience taking actual lives & bot-driven opinions & general irreality. astrology is yet another form of stereotyping based on something we can't control, and for every person who uses it for introspection in a positive way, it's just as often often used to simplify, minimize, and dismiss entire complex human beings with impossibly varied backgrounds and lives: "never trust her, she's a scorpio."

(all that said -- I am so glad to see this nuanced conversation here. it's definitely making me think.)
posted by changeling at 4:07 PM on March 13, 2019 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Ignoring + changing the subject is fine for getting along with people.

However, you feel there’s a moral hazard in holding this belief. (I agree with you on that. Reality alignment is a pro imo. Subscribing to a fatalistic and afaik technically impossible system isn’t, it’s a false lens through which to view your self and others that promotes passivity. I feel that way because o got really into it when I was a teen, in a mathy, semi-pro way, even. At some point I realized it’s not actually possible. And I recognized that what I’d been looking for were answers with ultimate authority that could provide guidance on how to live, what kinds of choices I could or should make, who I *was* (then got really angry with myself for doing it). This isn’t a benign belief, it closes off the possibility of seeing yourself as capable of change, it’s self-limiting, can encourage self-fulfilling prophecy... depending of course on how much the person invests in it. Some might be casual about it, others might be using it as a vehicle for grappling with deep-down issues. Figuring yourself out is a massive deal when you’re in your 20s (and older, but usually then for sure).

However. If you come down hard on it, people are going to write you off as an asshole. And they won’t benefit from anything you might have to say, because they’re going to be thinking you’re an asshole.

So I’d say, pass on this conversation when it comes up. If you’re positioned to help someone you recognize as really vulnerable wrt self-efficacy, help them out by focusing on their strengths and judging them towards actualizing them. Your moral responsibility is met and astrology doesn’t even have to come up.

(I have an issue with someone highly interested in UFOs... not just in the probability of their existence [I mean life other than us existing in the universe seems very possible], but in a very specific history around their current and ongoing presence on or rather in the earth. Which I find myself very stretched to believe. When pressed on this, which I sometimes am, I’m as honest as I can be without being hurtful. I never laugh or sneer, obviously. I’m openly sceptical, I say stuff like “there’s always a possibility [true, even if it’s .00001%], unfortunately I’m not situated to assess the evidence because I know jack about military technology, astronomy, etc [also true]. I can’t get on board at this time, sorry. [If pressed further about reading about this stuff:] Right now my priorities are different, and my energy and time are limited. Maybe I’ll look into in future [which technically could happen I suppose].” Is this a cop out, probably. Is the belief hazardous, there is potential for that, however the person is focused on other matters for now, which is good.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:07 PM on March 13, 2019 [3 favorites]

Also I’m gonna suggest never telling people what your birthday is or any of that. That is...definitely what I’m going to be doing. They’re gonna have to judge me for myself.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:15 PM on March 13, 2019 [1 favorite]


s/b “nudging”, sorry.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:40 PM on March 13, 2019

Best answer: My queer experience of astrology seems to be a middle-aged one that is at odds with the young queer experience. I don't find it to be some welcoming spirituality in alternative to the kinds of spirituality that offered me hellfire when I was younger. I'm made nervous by people telling me there are rules they can' see that I can't see, whether it's Leviticus or my fire sign. I know no one is going to condemn my queer soul using astrology but I'm still not convinced if someone wants to do your chart you should be all "sure, I don't believe it, but I guess I'll go along with it in order to affirm queer alternatives to heteropatriarchal religion!"
posted by Smearcase at 9:28 PM on March 13, 2019 [7 favorites]

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