After three successful years at leading The Satanic Temple Arizona Chapter, I will be stepping down from my position as Chapterhead, effective immediately. TST AZ has grown into a thriving community full of dedicated and enthusiastic members, and I am so proud of all of our accomplishments. I can comfortably step down with the confidence in knowing that the Arizona chapter is left in good hands and will continue to make us proud while leading by example. TST AZ is taking their time during this transition of leadership to ensure the best selection from the pool of potential candidates, however, the chapter is still very much alive and ready to take on new challenges. I look forward to seeing TST AZ flourish under new leadership.
TST AZ - A History
TST Arizona was the first of the second wave of new chapters to be given chapter status and it all began back in February 2016 when co-founders Stu de Haan and myself made international headlines upon requesting to deliver an invocation before a Phoenix City Council meeting. Without having had any previous interaction, Stu and I were appointed to undertake a monumental task of handling the onslaught of media requests and the public’s vitriol due to our request to give an invocation.
We had only met in person twice before, and then we found ourselves on Fox10 Phoenix discussing Satanic invocations before city council meetings.
Three years ago, TST did not have the support structure as it does today prior to the formation of the National Council; back then, direction was provided to us directly by TST’s co-founder Lucien Greaves, who personally selected Stu and myself to form the foundation of what would later become TST Arizona. As a new chapterhead with no previous leadership experience, I had to learn the necessary skills of running a small-business while caring and fostering, what I hope would become, a Satanic community within our state. Creating a Satanic community where one did not previously exist is no easy task, nor is maintaining the momentum needed to ensure that the community does not fizzle out once the media attention subsides. The membership that TST AZ has attracted has given me so much pride, not only as a chapterhead but as a former solitary Satanist that had felt alone and without a tribe. TST AZ is like gaining a family and would not be what it is today without our members, as they are the heart that keeps our community together.
TST AZ’s first year was mainly unstructured as we were still trying to learn how to tackle the task of building a chapter. We took our time that first year to develop the much needed relationships with other local entrepreneurs to establish ourselves as a positive presence within the community.
Year two of TST AZ is where I began to implement the Action Committee system, which is still in place today, to help structure the tasks and responsibilities of the chapter. The Action Committee system has allowed for our membership to take on bigger roles while still having the support and guidance from TST AZ’s Council every step of the way. That same year, TST AZ’s first Menstruatin’ with Satan campaign was given a community service award by the Phoenix New Times and we attended our first Tucson Pride event. I remember the excitement of marching, unashamed and unabashed as a proud Satanic Queer; there is nothing quite like that feeling to live authentically as oneself, an opportunity that would not be possible without TST. In year three, TST AZ continued to streamline operations, attracted new opportunities with local partners, and implemented a new clothing drive campaign, Lord of the Ties.
TST AZ at Tucson Pride 2017
Reason for Resigning
In short, I am resigning to take care of my mental health issues that have become increasingly more difficult to manage over the last year. As someone who suffers from OCD and anxiety, I found myself unable to separate Michelle (the person) and Michelle (the Chapterhead). The responsibilities of a chapterhead can become endless because of the number of moving pieces between local members, council members, fellow chapters, and National Council. There is no limit to the possibilities of starting a new project here and planning this new event there. In essence, a chapter is a living organism with each part serving its own specific function while working in tandem with the rest. Dutifully, I immersed myself into my role as chapterhead to my detriment. My decision for resigning has not come lightly but I do so with the best intentions and with an understanding for the position that few outside of TST leadership seem to comprehend.
The Reality of Being a Chapterhead
Stepping down as TST AZ’s chapterhead has been the hardest decision I have had to make but one that I know is best for myself and the chapter. It is difficult to walk away from something that I took years to build, something that became such an integral part of my identity, something that was a life-altering experience that consumed my every waking moment and required so much sacrifice. Even though every single one of us is a volunteer, the time and energy required of us as chapterheads is basically a full-time job in and of itself .
One of the biggest understatements in regards to TST’s leadership is that it is a thankless job that places an immense burden on the person responsible. The media portrays a very narrow view of who we are and what we do. The public has a basic understanding of TST but even less so of TST Chapters, which are autonomous from one another, and all the work that goes into establishing one that is functional. TST leadership are among the hardest working people that I know. Many chapterheads push themselves to the point of burnout, experience mental breakdowns due to the stress, and lose themselves to the role that they have adopted within TST. I know I did.
It had been a goal of mine to establish a co-chapterhead prior to my resignation but this task proved harder than initially anticipated. I learned the hard way that leading a chapter should always be a two-person job, but the selection of new a chapterhead(s) is no frivolous task. Experience has shown that either a) dedicated and natural leaders are woefully lacking b) those who wish to lead are not qualified for the position.
I was left with the choice of continuing as chapterhead until I found a replacement or chose to resign and let the chapter choose their new leadership without me. I chose the latter because the former would have been unfair, not only to myself, but to TST AZ. I could not find the heart to continue in a position that had become burdensome to my mental state and the chapter deserved a new leader, one with fresh ideas and a renewed hunger to push it to the next level of success that I felt I could no longer lead them to.
I hope the next chapterhead(s) are able to compartmentalize, unlike I did. The most important part of the job is not forgetting how to self-care, which many of us in leadership have been neglecting to do. I have concluded that passing on the torch, acknowledging that I have done what I can to the best of my abilities, and moving towards a new venture that I can excel in and be fulfilled by is the most Satanic thing I can do right now.
From a chapterhead perspective - the documentary “Hail Satan?”, despite being a great origins story of TST, has been a detriment to the organization in many ways but much more so to the leadership who are not equipped to handle the growing number of inquiries. The increase in public interest has also led to an increase in targeted harassment. The once smaller targets that we already had placed on our backs suddenly got that much bigger due to the movie, so much to the point where many chapters are now having to produce safety protocols and crisis intervention for any of their public events.
It is my hope that The Satanic Temple will reevaluate policy due to the influx of people and err on the side of caution in regards to meeting the demands of the public. The Satanic Temple is not an organization based on supply and demand. We do not owe anyone anything in regards to making ourselves more easily accessible to them. Rather than cater to those who recently became aware of TST due to the “Hail Satan?” documentary, I would advise for TST to close ranks and focus on the current chapters who are at the forefront in handling the overflow of newcomers. Due to the vast coverage of TST by the media, it appears that TST is a large organization with endless resources, when in truth we are volunteers learning the ins-and-outs of the job as we go along while trying to maintain our paying jobs and personal lives intact. We are human and there are bound to be mistakes that arise, but TST and TST leadership will always do their best to ensure they are fair and consistent in their operations.
“Hail Satan?” did a great job in covering our public-facing campaigns but it gave little insight to the religious aspects of TST, more specifically in clarifying that we aren’t just a political tool. Many who have just become aware of TST don’t view us as a religious organization and would rather use TST for the advancement of their own personal agendas. I see too many newcomers ask, “What can TST do for [insert this cause here]”, without having an understanding of how/why TST choses the causes that we do in the first place. I have seen our forum moderators squander countless hours to answer the same questions ad nauseum by newcomers who don’t take the time to read the FAQ or search through the previous posts, and these newcomers want to call themselves Satanists without having done a shred of research outside of agreeing with our 7 Fundamental Tenets, which as they stand, do not encompass what it means to be a Satanist but should be taken as guidelines in addition to further study of the Satanic milieu. As someone who has seen this unintended growth for many years, I worry for the future of TST; I worry for leadership who are stretched too thin as it is, and I worry that the culture of our Satanic community is becoming diluted with those who do not understand our mission.
The Satanic Temple is not looking for followers, we are looking for collaborators and those who are willing to put in the work to help this organization flourish. Ask not what your Temple can do for you, but what can you do for your Temple?
It has been my greatest honor to have had the opportunity to lead The Satanic Temple Arizona Chapter. I am truly fortunate to have gained lifelong friends and family to share the gift of fellowship and to share a common goal through our fundamental values. I have learned so much from the various responsibilities I had, skills that will surely prove beneficial in whatever path I decide to pursue next. I will continue to be an avid supporter and member of TST AZ and, after a well-deserved break, will be dedicating my time towards TST’s Satan Space and my upcoming sex-talk show “FLESH”, where no discussion topic is too taboo. I am very excited for this new position which will indulge my creative and curious nature, and I do hope that you will join me on this journey once it airs on the upcoming platform. Thank you all for the honor. Hail to new beginnings! Hail TST! Hail Satan!