“My concern is that you’re a Capricorn.”
A woman was denied housing in Portland because she was born a Capricorn, according to screen grabs of the exchange that went viral on Twitter this week.
In rejecting the woman, named Christine, an unidentified Facebook user explained that the house in question was effectively a “safe space” for sensitive astrological signs. The housemates were worried that Christine’s presumably “domming” nature would oppress them, the user said.
“My concern is that you’re a Capricorn. Our main goal is to keep things egalitarian, without anyone being ‘in charge’ or domming the household,” the message read, using a BDSM slang term for “dominating.” “This Virgo/Gemini house is a special place where soft mutable signs get to run free untethered by cardinal authorities.”
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The rejection message began circulating on Twitter Sunday night after it was shared by user Riley Owen, a self-described transgender anarchist baker and part-time sex worker. Owen said the post came from an unnamed Portland queer housing Facebook group.
Fuckin astrology queers in this town are out of control, y'all pic.twitter.com/rt6DZtfSkt
— Riley Owen🏴🍞 (@b0ytits) April 21, 2019
Despite her own apparent affinity for identity, Owen commented dismissively: “Fuckin astrology queers in this town are out of control, y’all.”
On Monday, Guardian reporter Kari Paul advanced the story by tweeting a screen grab that included Christine’s response along with the original message. In a post that was apparently addressed to the entire Portland housing group, Christine complained that this wasn’t the first time she had faced such profiling from the community.
“I’ve seen this from way too many people on here. And it seriously needs to stop,” she said. “Stop asking potential roommates their astrological sign. It’s abelist and extremely discriminatory.”
“Stars don’t make a personality in any shape or form,” she added.
Later Monday, Paul followed-up on her tweet with a report for The Guardian, which found that Christine is not alone in her experience of astrology-based discrimination.
Paul quoted a New York paralegal named Jesse, who told her he had been questioned about his astrological sign during an interview for housing he found on a local queer housing Facebook page. Jesse suspected his answer may have doomed his application.
“I have no way of knowing not being called back was related to my sign, but it did strike me as an odd thing to ask,” he said. “It’s the kind of situation where I think if my sign matters that much to you, maybe we’re better off not living together. Although I suppose that logic applies to other forms of discrimination.”
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In one of the many replies to Paul’s tweet about Christine’s complaint, Stranger staff writer Katie Herzog revealed a similar experience. Years ago, she said, she had been told that she was unwelcome in Portland housing co-ops because she was a Taurus. Herzog joked that claiming to “identity as a Gemini” didn’t help her case.
I was informed in 2007 that I would have been welcomed into a Portland housing co-op if I weren't a Taurus. My response ("But I identify as a Gemini!!") didn't help. https://t.co/RogSjshkIL
— Katie Herzog (@kittypurrzog) April 22, 2019
However, not everyone took the issue so lightly. Paul reported in her tweet that the Montreal LGBT housing Facebook group where she had found Christine’s complaint was embroiled in a “heated debate about whether it’s abelist to deny someone housing on the basis of being a capricorn.”
Paul didn’t provide further details, and in fact later deleted her tweet entirely. But the group, called Chez Queer Montreal, appeared to be the kind of woke environ where “abelism” has become a kind of catchall term for supposed discrimination against the “marginalized.”
Chez Queer Montreal’s description reads in part:
People holding marginalized identities, such as people of colour, indigenous people, disabled people, trans people, working class/poor people, have every right to create a space for themselves to feel safe, based around shared experiences and identity. Similarly, it is NOT ok to create a space that prioritizes people holding dominant identities.
Group members who want to advertise housing are further instructed to provide the following details: number of steps, kitchen and bathroom accessibility, the width or hallways and doors, and “information relevant for those with scent and chemical sensitivity/allergies and MCS (multiple chemical sensitivities).”
Even at a time when identity politics are ascendant, such rules go well beyond what is legally required. And astrological signs are not among the seven “protected categories” of identity under federal housing law. However, according to a California housing activist quoted in Paul’s article, the liberal state actually does offer protections for zodiac-based identities.
“This is not a legitimate basis for turning someone down,” said Caroline Peattie, the executive director at Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California. “It has nothing to do with their ability to pay rent or be a good tenant.”
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