(RNS) — Rachel Pollack, a prolific writer about tarot and an early activist for transgendered people’s rights, died April 7. She was 77.Pollack’s wife, Judith Zoe Matoff, shared the news on social media, saying that Pollack, who had been battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, died peacefully after “a touching ceremony called Hand to Heart,” surrounded by a circle of family and friends.
Beloved for her science fiction and fantasy writing, both in novels and comic books, she began speaking out for “transvestites, transsexuals and drag queens” at a time when the trans community was largely unseen, co-writing a 1972 manifesto titled “Don’t Call Me Mister, You F—-ing Beast.”
She did it all with a sense of humor, according to friends. “I hope that part of Rachel’s legacy both as activist and mystic will have been a serious commitment to playfulness and generosity of spirit,” wrote Roz Kaveney, the co-author of the manifesto, in a tweet.
“Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom” by Rachel Pollack. Courtesy image
“The whole question of (gender) roles needs to be examined,” wrote Pollack and Kaveney, insisting that transgendered people “can contribute to a new understanding of how they operate.” They added, “The important thing is, no one should tell you, as a man or a woman, this is the role you have to play, and you have to play it all the time.”
Born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jewish family in 1945, Pollack moved to Europe in 1971 and stayed for 19 years, during which time she transitioned. While living in the United Kingdom, she helped organize an activist group for trans people.
In a 2022 interview Pollack said that in the single year of 1971 she discovered tarot, had her first story published, moved to Europe and came out as trans and a lesbian. “My whole life changed in one year. It was an amazing year. A year of my life taking off,” she said.
Her first novel, “Golden Vanity,” was published in 1980, the same year she released her first book on tarot, “Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom,” which would go on to become a bestseller and is now in its 40th printing.
In 1989, she received an Arthur C. Clarke Award in science fiction for her novel “Unquenchable Fire.” In that tale, as in many of her works, Pollack seamlessly combined mysticism, magic, mythology and …
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