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PantheaCon 2012: Politics and the controversy over women’s rituals

posted by Gus diZerega

Thought on the Pantheacon controversy

I imagine there are few Pagans who have spent more time studying, thinking, and writing about politics in all its various forms than I, and for those of you who have, you have my sympathies. Even so, I have hesitated to get involved in discussing the controversy that arose over Z Budapest’s “genetic women only” ritual at Pantheacon. But upon reflection, I think I might have some insights of value regarding spirituality, politics, and diversity, and so with trepidation I enter the discussion.

Why trepidation?

Because I think that allowing politics to enter into religion is always a bad thing whenever it happens.  Sometimes it may be necessary, but it is always destructive and so can be justified only to prevent a greater destruction.  Why is it always destructive?  Because politics usually involves conflict and conflict has a powerful tendency to elevate will and power over persuasion, example, and heart. It creates boundaries of separation where there were none and exaggerates boundaries that already existed.  When the personal moral strength we get from religion is combined with a concern for power to realize our values by pushing them on others, the road to misunderstandings, and then to anger and even hatred, is opened wide with few of us wise enough to tread it successfully.

Politics and Religion

By “politics” I mean discussing and deciding on the values our broader community must abide by on pain of sanctions, whether they be the violence of the state, or condemnation and shunning those who disagree within smaller communities and organizations. This is politics as a necessary human endeavor, and not just power tripping and manipulation.   Even so, politics always involves exercising or seeking to exercise power over those who disagree. This power can be physical, but it can also take many other forms.  Politics in the best sense is conducted along that thin but vital line between persuasion and agreement and force and coercion. Walking it is necessary at times and it is tricky all the time. It attracts power junkies and self-righteousness addicts like sugar attracts ants.

For me, spirituality and its organized form as religion is where we seek and hopefully find a context bigger than politics, money, career, family, ego, and the other matters that taken together create mundane life.  Spirituality and religion gives us a context where the mundane, or some aspect of the mundane, will not become all important, as it so easily otherwise can. For many of us Pagans the mundane is thereby sacralized, but as this happens its dimensions are seen and experienced as only a part of a greater whole that gives them meaning.  But in their mundane capacity they do not give it meaning. Politics is a small but important box.  Religion is a very big one.

For this reason I will begin my analysis of this controversy by stating some facts about Pagan ritual and religion in general, and only then get to the politics.

Ritual etiquette

NeoPaganism is a religion of ritual far more than a religion of belief. Years ago I was taught that there must be harmony among participants for a ritual to work.  That is a part of basic “ritual 101.” A great many Pagan rituals are a collective focus on a common purpose.  Dissension among participants defeats the most basic prerequisite for a successful group ritual.  For the same reason, the HP and HPS need to be calm and centered.  Perhaps later in the ritual very different emotions will need to be generated, but they need to be done so within a context that holds and focuses them, a context that requires centeredness and focus.

When I am distracted by worries, animosities, or anything else, I am to that degree removed from the common space the ritual’s participants are attempting to create.  I know from experience that deities can override this barrier on occasion. I also know they rarely do.

For this reason I personally do not go to rituals where I have had ‘problems’ with people there and I think there might still be ‘energy’ over the issue, either on my part or the other person’s part. I attended a group ritual here in Sebastopol for the first time in several years because I thought enough time had passed that a conflict I had had with a member of the group putting it on had melted away.  Even so, I was very aware of her presence. Perhaps the same held for her. I hope not.

I will never forget a May Pole dance ritual in Washington state over 20 years ago.  It was being organized so the dance would go man-woman-man-woman, with one gender going one direction, the other the other.  A few gay male Pagans, or perhaps people who today would be called trans, broke in and disrupted this order because they said it was “sexist” or “essentialist” or some such thing.  They insisted on taking the place a woman would take.  For most of us they were complete strangers.  The ritual lost its unity of focus and became just another May Pole celebration.  Fun enough I guess, but nothing more.

But weren’t they battling discrimination?

The reply that would be made to this comment is that they were battling discrimination and discrimination is bad. Let’s step back a bit.  Yes, they were reacting to a long history of discrimination against gay men, a history that is rapidly drawing to a close in the civilized parts of this country. No spiritual community in America has been more accepting of sexual diversity than have Pagans. There are gay covens, lesbian covens, straight covens, mixed covens, and for all I know, exclusively LGBT covens.  Certainly there is nothing in our approach to suggest otherwise, for when approached wisely, Pagan spirituality finds everything as a manifestation of the Sacred.

Does a gay male coven have the right to exclude straight men and all women?  Of course. Can a straight coven exclude gays if it wants?  Of course. (And to forestall an misunderstanding of my motives, the coven I was longest associated with had a gay member, one of my most talented Wiccan students is bi, and another is lesbian.) The same is true with all other possible mixes of covens.

We assume that to discriminate means to judge along a standard claiming to indicate what is intrinsically better or worse. I think this is a monotheistic holdover from people who could not avoid equating difference with error.  We discriminate all the time without making invidious comparisons.  For example I discriminate in favor of my friends and family.  That does not mean that I think you, your friends, and your family are inferior in ANY sense to mine.

The counter response might be that the two groups are not analogous because gays have long been discriminated against, unlike straights.  They need their safe space in a way straights do not.  Gays need to more powerfully affirm who they are and straights need to more powerfully affirm the worth of people not like them.  I agree, but this is irrelevant in this context.

We are discussing a small working group whose very reason for existence depends on harmony and unity of will.  As anyone with long coven experience knows, this is an achievement that can never be taken for granted, and must sometimes be worked at.  This is why in groups with which I have been associated any coven member has an absolute veto on new members. It is not a democracy.

Returning to the long ago May Pole, very importantly, nothing prevented gay men who wanted to join the women’s section, and those sympathetic with them, from creating their own May Pole.  In a very real sense to move in one someone else’s ritual against their will is an act of aggression.  Organize your own and leave the others alone.

But, someone might say, a large ritual full of strangers is not a coven.  Most of us at the May Pole did not know one another so we were just perpetuating a sad and abusive stereotype. To best understand why this argument does not have the strength its advocates think it has, we need to enlarge the context a little.

Innovation and tradition

A few years ago the now sadly defunct magazine Shaman’s Drum had an article about a new Sun Dance tradition that had arisen on Oregon.  What made it new was that dancers would also use “medicine,” meaning entheogens.  Traditionally among Indians there was a pretty strict prohibition against using medicine when Sun Dancing. Nevertheless, the dance took place even as many elders disapproved.  I have no idea at all whether this tradition survived or not.  If it had led to valuable spiritual experiences among participants it would have grown, otherwise it would not have ever amounted to much, and eventually died out.

Among the Indians I have known the traditional medicine-free Sun Dance itself was performed in two ways.  One group pierced, another did not. Both were well established. This, I submit, is how any broad spiritual tradition not ossified by the power of a controlling elite grows and changes.  New insights find supporters, they try their idea out, and it either “works” or does not.

This means there is NEVER any reason to interfere with another ritual in the absence of very serious ethical issues, such as child abuse.

Spiritual diversity as inevitable

Pantheacon is a gathering of diverse Pagan traditions, many of which have very different ways of practicing from one another. If it has been around long within a given tradition many people will have very different ideas as to who is “doing it right.”  That seems to be a very basic aspect of human psychology. We come together in unity, break up in diversity, and then the process repeats itself.  We differ from the monotheists because for us this is not a problem.   We are a religion of diverse groups that almost always acknowledge the legitimacy of other traditions and religions while arguing vehemently within a tradition as to just what is essential to it being such.  Certainly this is the case for us Gardnerians.

That others do things differently does not mean I am wrong, not does it mean they are wrong.  As Pagans we can celebrate diversity because the Sacred can be approached in far more ways than any person or any culture or perhaps even humanity as a whole can accomplish.

This is the framework from which I will discuss the controversy over Z Budapest’s insistence on a genetic woman only ritual and the peaceful demonstration that took place outside where it was held.

The Pantheacon controversy

Again, I will place my personal cards on the table.  Thorn is a friend whom I respect greatly.  She is a dynamo of inspiration and talent and a powerful example of the best in the next generation of well known Pagans.  Z is an elder deserving of gratitude, honor and respect as one of those most responsible for us being who we are today. We are much the richer for her presence, for her having trod the Pagan path when there were few to offer support and understanding.  But I do not know Z although we have served on a panel together.

Politically I disagree with any position that holds one gender as inferior to another.  I also think there is a tendency for women to exemplify feminine values more than men, men to exemplify masculine values more than women, and also for there to be considerable cross over and blurring here on an individual basis.  Wholesale, the deck is loaded, retail, the balance can and will vary.

This means that I do not think it is automatically an error to do gender specific rituals, and all traditional Pagan societies I know of have done them. I also acknowledge that no woman is entirely feminine and no man is entirely masculine. Societies that have respected people with mixed gender identities have still had men only and women only rituals.  What matters are three points.

1.     Pagan societies since time immemorial have had gender specific rituals.

2.     Harmony among participants is a fundamental aspect of doing ritual.

3.     Gender and sexual preference specific rituals are well known and long established in our community.

These points are more fundamental than the power and relevance of Z Budapest’s arguments. On the other hand, as Lupa emphasized, she can be legitimately criticized for saying that her ritual was to celebrate women as such, “the beauty and grace of the feminine form in all her infinite variety.” Bad wording aside, how can we think most productively about this incident?

To look at the controversy over Z’s preferences in context, we as a community are dealing with how to relate ritually to people who are trans. Are they men, women, or a combination?  Is a person’s self identification all that is necessary for gender identification in all contexts, and if not, what contexts? At an energetic level I can see arguments both ways whereas at a psychological level I think the trans folks have the stronger case.  But the issue is not clear to all sincere people.  Magick and ritual makes use of both psychology and energy.  Based on her remarks in 2011, Z clearly is uneasy with considering trans women as fully women.   Trans women respond they are entirely women in all relevant ways.

I think this issue has something important in common with controversies among our Indian brethren as to whether the Sun Dance is done with or without piercing, with or without medicine, and I suppose, sooner or later, with or without women being pierced in the same way. (By the way, when I was on the Crow reservation in Montana a young Sun Dancer explained that he pierced and did the ordeal so as to offer his body and endurance and suffering to his tribe as women did during childbirth.  We are not talking Republican or Christian style sexism.)

Among Sun Dancers time will tell what traditions grow, what traditions fade, or whether the dance will divide into multiple kinds of dances.  This is what people do.  We change things. Some of our changes take, some work for a small group and fade away, and some are dead ends, with no way to tell in advance which a possible change will ultimately turn out to be.

I want to suggest taking a similar approach to controversies such as that involving Z’s genetic-women-only ritual.  Let her do it, and let the women who want to go do so.  And leave them alone. 

As I understand it, at PantheaCon there was also a woman only ritual with trans people accepted. (Not being a woman I did not go.) Over time perhaps both groups will flourish or one will fade and the other grow or, I think least likely, both will fade away towards a universally inclusive standard.

Odds and ends

As I read various online descriptions by participants in the ritual and in the prayer vigil outside, and by some second parties such as myself who attended PantheaCon but were not at the ritual or protest, as well as some who were not even at Pantheacon, the sad familiar pattern so prevalent when religion is politicized began to make itself evident.

By all accounts I have heard, the prayer vigil was done as respectfully as it could be done.  There was no attempt to disrupt the ritual.  And yet these actions were disruptive.  Those participating in the ritual had to get to the room by passing through a group who obviously disapproved.  That could not help but disrupt the focus needed, and indeed its intention was to get participants to rethink their values.  Why else do it?

Some Pagans decided to serve as a kind of “bridge” between the two groups.  Their actions were misunderstood and apparently seen as threatening by some people in the prayer group.  Other people have since advocated boycotting Pantheacon and saying its organizers owed them an apology for allowing Z’s ritual. This can lead to a “with us or against us” mentality that is destructive in any diverse group.

When passions got inflamed minds, reason and heart take a back seat. People tried to make statements and the words came out wrong, or the words were misunderstood.  This is almost always what happens in politics when both sides feel they are in the right and are morally motivated.  This is why we should seek to minimize the impact of this kind of thing on our community.

To summarize, the protest against Z’s genetic-women only ritual was political.  Its advocates were making a statement about how they believe the entire Pagan community should act: not simply not to condemn, not simply to accept other ways, but to modify their ways so as to include a group that wanted such affirmation even while they were free to practice in their own way within a largely accepting environment.  Sometimes this is necessary to do, as with a hypothetical case of having the community ban a group practicing ritual child abuse. But most of the time this is not necessary.

Z’s ritual was not political as I defined the term.  She and those who attended did not make a statement about how the larger community should conduct their rituals let alone setting their ritual up as a proper guide for all, or for all women.  Quite explicitly otherwise.  In the context of Pantheacon this was a ritual for people wanting to attend a ritual with particular parameters.  Those desires were legitimate and indeed are present in almost every Pagan society. (I say “almost” because perhaps somewhere there is an exception, but I doubt it.)

To demand Z’s group act as the protesters wanted was to force the large box of people’s relation to the Spiritual into the small box of politics. It reversed the proper relationship of the two. It seemed otherwise because the protestors  were convinced an important moral issue was at stake: the accepting of trans people as legitimate.  But the particular incident they protested did not claim trans people were illegitimate, it just excluded them for the purpose of that gathering, as it excluded men. Z’s comments of the previous year were hurtful, but they were not necessary elements for wanting a genetic-women only ritual as her comments this year demonstrated.

I am a straight male who does not even think the term “patriarchy” is accurate or helpful. In fact I think it causes more confusion than clarity.  (That’s another column…) Therefore I obviously disagree with many of Z’s views.  Even so, her statement to the protestors, passed out by the Pantheacon staff, seems to me completely in the spirit of what I believe:

“I know you are here for me.  I come out to say something to all of you.  I am sorry if I have hurt anyone’s feelings.  I apologize. I stand for your right of sacred space for the trans community.  I stand with my life’s work for the women to have the right to their sacred space equally.  I have supported PantheaCon goals for unity and diversity for the 18 years this conference has existed and an opportunity to have everyone to express themselves in a safe place.  Peace”

Sources

Here are some good sources on the controversy by people who were there

Pagan Newswire Collective

Thorn Coyle

Way of the rabbit

Patheos blogs

 



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Peter Dybing

posted February 24, 2012 at 5:43 pm


Guss,

Somehow you have been dragged into the idea that the action was based on a disapproval of the ritual. The only unity in those sitting was in standing up to the hate speech that Z had engaged in. Z to her credit said she was sorry for her hurtful words. The actions goals were met. The larger issues were never intended to be addressed by this action.



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Jaundicedi

posted February 24, 2012 at 6:13 pm


Since I was unable to attend, I will keep my comments to generalities. It seems to me that Trans-people are in effect, making manifest in their bodies a desired reality that they perceive as their true self. That strikes me as being at least very similar to a what we do when we do magic…at least in part. To deny the validity of that change would seem to be at odds with what we are as Pagans.



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Gus diZerega

posted February 24, 2012 at 6:15 pm


I hope so! Some of the comments I read indicated otherwise, and once a controversy gets going it takes on a life of its own as people attach their varied agendas to it. For example, calls to boycott P-Con were an extraordinary expansion of the issue into one of with-us-or-against-us power struggles.

feh.



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Polly Moller

posted February 24, 2012 at 6:19 pm


Gus, I attended the Rite of the Bear Mother, and I never got a chance to share with you that all genders were welcome — men, women, cis, trans, everybody. And it rocked. :)



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Jonathan Korman

posted February 24, 2012 at 7:16 pm


Gus, I have to second Peter Dybing above.

Yes, discussions about hard questions about the function of exclusive rituals have surfaced in the Pagan community, triggered by the events at PantheaCon, but both this year and last year, the conflict was not sparked by the fact of exclusive rituals for cis women per se. Last year, it was about poor communication. This year, it was about hate speech by the leader of the ritual.

I think it was very clear that the action at the ritual signified a rejection of rituals framed in terms that insult trans people, not a rejection of rituals exclusive to cis people.

I’ve described that at length in an open letter and at the time of this writing I have over 80 signatories who agree.



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Gus diZerega

posted February 24, 2012 at 8:09 pm


Jonathan-
I read your column and there was much I liked. But I found myself disagreeing strongly with its end. Your three calls upon PantheaCon seemed to me a huge escalation of the issue into no-win territory.

1. I do not think PantheaCon owes anyone any apology. Period.

2. I do not think Z should be banned from PantheaCon until she gives an apology that satisfies you or anyone else. She has earned her right to be present as very few people have. That I disagree with many of her opinions – and I do – is beside the point. A decent world is one where disagreement is accepted as an inevitable part of life. Her initial comments were truly offensive – and I will get to that below. Her comments this year are fine by me.

3. As to restricted rituals, yes Z was overly broad in her initial description, but she also made it clear it was only for genetic women. Irritating? Yes. Major sin? No. No one the slightest aware of Z’s history as much call to be upset or surprised.

By the way, she has said upsetting things about men for some time. I notice no trans folks are upset at what she said about men in 2011. They only apparently object because they see themselves as NOT men. Sounds like a double standard to me.

I think it is PantheaCon’s business to decide who is accepted for offering rituals and who is not. I can think of no one more qualified to do a Dianic ritual than Z. And you and I are no more welcome than are trans women. Fine. It’s not the only ritual in town.

Yes, Z was rude and yes she took a long time to apologize. She was also apparently upset initially and is hard headed. And I cannot read her mind any more than you can, but comments made in apparent anger and frustration do not a campaign of “hate speech make” in my opinion. Welcome to the human race. Give ‘em slack.

I can say as a male Pagan that I have heard and read a lot of what I regard as complete crap by some women Pagans. Some is extremely objectionable crap. (Like that my casting a circle is akin to an act of rape because the circle is the “womb of the Goddess” and similar piffle.) It would NEVER dawn on me to call for these people to be banned from leading public Pagan events. If they were to talk on something that interested me I might go, and if it didn’t or sounded repulsive, I wouldn’t. Simple.

The underlying issue seems to be that trans women claim they are identical to women in all relevant ways. I am honestly not convinced. That some people disagree with me is not important because I do not come to my judgments based on majority vote. Let me explain.

I worked 6 years in an intense Brazilian healing center doing work as demanding and difficult as my previous PhD from Berkeley. Among many other things we did a small number of big exorcisms. They could be pretty intense.

Women at the center were not allowed to participate. I asked my teacher, Antonio, why.

He said that women were far more able to take energies in than were men because they were the means by which a spirit entered into a body to take birth. Consequently, they were at greater danger of picking up bad stuff. They were just as capable magickally at doing the work, but risked more when doing it.

It is a fact that most possessory mediums are women in every culture I know of that has the phenomena. Often the few men who are also mediums are regarded as gay. I know this need not be the case because I am such a medium and I am not gay. But the broader statistics are pretty clear.

To the extent Antonio’s description is accurate, a trans-woman and a birth woman are not the same within magickal work. In fact I’d ask a trans-woman to help me long before I asked a woman. I would NOT have a woman helping me unless there were no other possibility and she were informed that she would be at greater risk than I.

You might say exorcisms are imaginary and possessory mediumship are cases of self delusion. You are entitled to your belief, as I am entitled to mine.

If this difference is real, there might well be others. I can well imagine that a extremely sensitive woman might pick up the difference.

And of course there are psychological differences based on very different life experiences. I am not saying women by birth are superior to trans women, I am saying they are different, and in some cases those differences might matter.

Consequently I would actively oppose any call for there being no allowable distinction between women and trans women at Pantheacon, and my reasons have nothing to do with thinking trans-women are flawed or inferior or evidence of Z’s silly comment that they are men trying to infiltrate women’s mysteries.



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Jonathan Korman

posted February 24, 2012 at 9:07 pm


Forgive me, Gus, but I really think you’re not hearing what I’m saying.

You say: “The underlying issue seems to be that trans women claim they are identical to women in all relevant ways.”

That is an issue that some people are talking about, yes. It’s definitely not the underlying issue in the conflict at PantheaCon this year.

It isn’t for me. Thorn, who initiated the sitting action, has made it clear in her blog posts that it isn’t for her. And it isn’t for the people who’ve signed my letter, which makes a point of explicitly excluding that as the issue.

The underlying issue is whether PantheaCon welcomes trans people, and the way that the Z Budapest ritual signals that the Con doesn’t. Not because it was exclusive for cis women, but because the language of the ritual description and the background of the leader of the ritual were profoundly insulting to trans women.

Z’s comments aren’t “silly”. They’re bigoted and insulting and in her position she should know that’s what they are. After last year’s misadventure, PantheaCon should know it too. So that ritual was an implicit endorsement of bigotry against trans women … not because they were excluded, but because of the rhetoric.

You say that you’re opposed to a call for there being no allowable distinction between cis and trans women. I haven’t made one.

I’ve made a call for an apology for bigoted statements. That’s what I and my signatories want.

And forgive me for being That Guy, but while we’re at it, could you please be a little more careful with your language on this yourself? The polite way to talk about not-trans is to say “cis”, as I alluded to in my letter. Some of your comments here have been things that I expect many trans folks would find thoughtless.



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Nicole Youngman

posted February 24, 2012 at 11:05 pm


Hi Gus,

Aside from the issues at hand that you’re discussing, I find it very interesting that your libertarian perspective comes through very clearly throughout this post–I’m not so sure one can so easily separate “religion” from “politics.” :)



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Gus diZerega

posted February 25, 2012 at 2:55 am


Jonathan-
I very deliberately did not use “cis.” I will continue not using “cis.” There is nothing impolite in saying “trans-woman” and “woman” if there are differences. I explained that in my judgment there are. People have considerable latitude in what they call themselves but, for me, they have a lot less in what they call others. Maybe someday if the term catches on I’ll go with “cis,” but I see no value in the term and so will not use it.

As I told you, I disagree with your requirements for PantheaCon and for Z. I still disagree. I did not miss your point, I said I did not find it sufficiently weighty to justify the reaction her words provoked. I explained that I found Z’s statements about men quite as offensive as her statements about trans-women, and I said I did not regard it as the kind of offense that would lead me to your approach to the issue. What is fair for the goose is fair for the gander.



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Gus diZerega

posted February 25, 2012 at 3:08 am


Nicole-
Pretty perceptive! I am no longer a libertarian although I was one into the 70s. (Ironically I just returned about a half hour ago from a meeting planning a book critiquing libertarianism!) That said, their focus on leaving people alone to live their lives I find very worth while and I deeply distrust the kinds of dynamics that begin when people seek to subordinate a spiritual practice to their political priorities, even when I agree with the priorities.

I think we have the example of the Christian Church as a good one to keep in mind as to what happens when the role of politics grows and overpowers the role of Spirit. This stance of mine is bipartisan.

My friend Jim Wilson pointed out to me that those Quakers that do not emphasize right dogma have remained without splits for hundreds of years while those that have concerned themselves with such issues have split many times. For me, let’s confine the splits as best we can to what goes on within traditions and seek to minimize politics in the larger Pagan community.



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Gus diZerega

posted February 25, 2012 at 3:12 am


Thanks Polly- I am glad it rocked. In my view the best cure for needless divisions is having a good time with those who once were on the outside. Connections from the heart change people in a way intellectual arguments do not. Providing opportunities for heart connections to be made is the wisest way through this issue in my opinion.



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Gus diZerega

posted February 25, 2012 at 3:17 am


Jaundicedi – I do not deny the validity of such a transformation in who a person is. I also hope I have made it clear I have no animosity or dislike or other negativities towards trans people, Pagan or not. People who do have significant personal growing to do.



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M.A.

posted February 25, 2012 at 4:30 pm


I wasn’t at Z’s ritual, and in fact had no idea about the controversy until I got home and started reading emails and blogs. But I have read a good amount about it, and I find yours to be the most thoughtful and wise response to the situation so far. Thank you.

(I only saw you across a crowded room at the con, so didn’t have a chance to say Hi. The beard looks good.)



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tiggrrl

posted February 25, 2012 at 4:59 pm


I have to ask whether you would be ok with a pagan group in a public setting like PantheaCon choosing to have a ritual in which only Caucasians were allowed? Would you view that also as non-political? There is certainly plenty of history of traditional societies limiting their rituals to only members of the same ethnic group.

Z can do whatever she feels moved to in her own space, just as plenty of groups hold closed rituals with trad- or gender- or perhaps ethnic-based restrictions during PantheaCon, in their own, not public, not Con-sponsored rooms.

But to have a “public” space in which ritual is performed that is restricted based on a distinction which Z is making as to who counts as a woman is not non-political. It is *extremely* political.

Just as making a distinction that sets “transwomen” apart from “women” is political, because it inherently implies that transwomen are not already part of the category of women. Just as it is offensive to many women to use the term “man” in place of the word “humanity” or another more inclusive word. There is a category of women, which includes both trans- and cis-women, and is not exclusive to one or the other.



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Kate LBT

posted February 25, 2012 at 5:21 pm


If you think trans women are going to content ourselves with whatever scraps of recognition “real” women choose to humor us with, you have another think coming. That the response of a frustrated subaltern group is considered “political” while the heedless oppression of the dominant group is unacceptable in any form.



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Lucretia

posted February 25, 2012 at 7:00 pm


I just wanted to say that I think this is a great post and I agree 100%. I really feel for Z as being singled out as some kind of bigot. That isn’t what this issue is about. I stand behind Z on this issue fully.



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Stephania

posted February 25, 2012 at 7:50 pm


Thank you for your words.
I was not at the Pantheacon, so am not an eye witness.
I am, however, a woman, a woman who has been damaged by the force of male aggression (rape and pillage means something to me unfortunately).
I’ve been to some wonderful all woman rituals of Z’s, as well as to the all woman spiral dance in San Francisco. I find them incredible, full of energy and with a safety element that as an abused woman, is imperative for me.
There is the need for all woman ritual, dianic ritual. And as much as a trans person considers themselves a woman or a man, depending on which side of the Trans corridor they are on, the reality is they were born their physical sex. I would not feel safe in a ritual which is not wholey female. And women like me have that right. We have the right to be and feel safe in ritual, no matter what the politically minded people say.

Blessed Be.



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Sorn

posted February 25, 2012 at 9:02 pm


I understand your libertarian attitude, but I confess that, given your post of Feb. 15 (particularly the section in which you discussed your experience with civil rights), I’m a little surprised by your position here. My opinion is certainly colored by my being a Heathen who belongs to an egalitarian group and who fights constantly against attempts by racists (and to a lesser degree, sexists) to define Heathenry in their terms and to exclude certain people from its practice, but, like tiggrrl, I don’t see a fundamental difference between exclusion based on race and exclusion based on gender. Replace “genetic women only” with “genetic whites only”; how does that sound? Separate rituals that welcomed transwomen may have been offered, but how often is separate but equal really equal? While such a thing might be marginally acceptable for a more private event, Pantheacon is a bit more of a public venue. I support the First Amendment and totally agree with the idea that people are free to worship as they choose, to form rituals as they like, to exclude people as they see fit (and the KKK can have a parade if they want). I also agree (even more so) with the idea that the rest of us can call them out on their actions when they’re in the wrong.

So, yeah: Z and the white supremacist Heathens can exclude whomever they want and say whatever they like. The fundamentalist Christians can continue their speeches against gay rights, and the Christian Identity folks can preach their garbage, too. As long as they keep it within legal bounds, all of the bigots everywhere can spew their poison. That’s their right. Just because they all have that right, though, doesn’t make their speech or actions morally right, regardless of how long they may’ve been around or what they might’ve contributed in the years prior.

“hvars þú böl kannt
kveðu þat bölvi at
ok gefat þínum fjándum frið”
(“when you come upon misdeeds
speak out about those misdeeds,
and give your enemies no peace.”) Havamal 127



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Jane Jetpack

posted February 25, 2012 at 9:36 pm


“But the particular incident they protested did not claim trans people were illegitimate.”

Actually, it is my understanding that it did.

The use by the ritual organizer of “Transies”, suggests to me transwomen are illegitimate, the use of “costumes” suggests that transwomen wearing women’s clothes are illegitimate.

I’m not sure how to interpret those words in any other manner, in fact. Perhaps I’ve missed something.

Were you there?



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Sierra Carleysdaughter

posted February 25, 2012 at 10:35 pm


Thank you so much for being able to clarify what I understand to be true but was unable to communicate. I was one of the women who went to the ritual and who was faced with the protest. It was, hurtful, and the continuing bashing of Dianics, of which I am one, and our rituals, continues to be hurtful.



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Sorn

posted February 25, 2012 at 10:46 pm


You may find calling out Z for her comments hurtful, Sierra; if that’s what you’re referring to, though, I don’t see much difference between your position and that of some Christians who complain that they’re being bashed when people call them out for their homophobic actions. (If I’m misunderstanding you here, though, please correct me). The language Jane Jetpack references I personally see as hurtful, and I applaud those who took the time to protest.



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Niquy

posted February 26, 2012 at 12:00 am


I am a ciswoman, a feminist, and follow pretty much a Dianic path, and I have to disagree with this blog post.

Z’s a bigot, transphobe, and transmisogynist, and I think Z got exactly what she deserved. Her response to the drama that went down at last years PantheaCon disgusted and offended me as a trans ally. This is not about Transpeople being overly sensitive. You in general seem not to be too aware of why this is so offensive. Let me give you an example, to the Trans community words like, “Transies” are akin to the N-word. Z stating that “real women are not born on operating tables,” is equally, if not more insulting and shows her lack of knowledge about the transwomen. Transwomen don’t need surgeries, hormones or anything else to make them women, they were always women in the first place.

Transpeople, but especially Transwomen are greatly oppressed in our society and are very vulnerable to violence. I’m not exaggerating when I say attitudes like Z’s are literally killing transwomen.

This is a very serious issue and I suggest you do some real research into Transpeople, their issues and oppressions they face. Then you will see why what Z has done and continues to do is no small thing.



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Sorn

posted February 26, 2012 at 12:01 am


Upon further reflection, Gus, I’m also surprised that you make such a firm distinction between politics and religion. I know that for Heathens like me (and people of a great many other religions), our religion is our worldview, and it influences everything we do, including our politics. I realize you’ve created slightly different definitions for the purposes of this post, but on this blog many times over the years, you’ve argued that Paganism with its worldly concerns and sacred immanence is of necessity intrinsically linked with politics and that discussing politics and adopting political stances are in fact Pagan activities.



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Deborah Bender

posted February 26, 2012 at 1:59 am


Since a major aspect of this controversy over the definition of woman and who owns that definition, I would like to point out that there are also disagreements over the meaning of Dianic and who is entitled to define it.

Z. casts a large shadow, but she doesn’t cover the moon.

Z. has always claimed that she is the (sole) mother of Dianic witchcraft. This claim seems to go completely unchallenged by non-Dianics and many Dianics as well. As a result whatever Z. says about Dianic witchcraft is taken by non-Dianics as authoritative.

I would say that the Dianic tradition has had many parents, at least one of whom is male (Mark Roberts). I think another major source was the women’s spirituality community in Wolf Creek, Oregon, led by Jean and Ruth Mountaingrove, who published a quarterly magazine throughout the 1970s. Womanspirit magazine published the religious and spiritual explorations of everyone from Marion Zimmer Bradley to a female runner continuing her daily run in the late stages of pregnancy. The magazine wasn’t specifically focused on witchcraft but it published plenty of witchy stuff, including a version of the Charge of the Goddess in the first issue (years before Z’s first book came out). The Wolf Creek women also held good sized woman-only pagan-oriented country festivals with powerful rituals in the early 1970s. They weren’t students of Z.

Z. deserves her fame and Dianic preeminence for her activism and leadership, for developing a form of group organization unique to her particular sect of Dianic witchcraft, and for popularizing Dianic ideas and practices. That doesn’t make her the Dianic Pope. Folk should not assume that Z. is an authority for all Dianics or even that the work of Z and her students is a major influence on the spiritual practices of every Dianic witch, though Z. is very ready to claim that she is.

There are Dianics today who welcome transgendered women into their groups and rituals on the same basis as woman-born-women or whatever the PC term is, I can’t keep up. There are also some Dianics today and in the past who got their inspiration and information from sources other than Z, starting about the same time that Z. began leading rituals in Los Angeles.

I was one of them. Our coven, Ursa Maior, did not have anywhere near the impact of the Susan B. Anthony Coven #1, but we did create, publish and publicly perform a ritual honoring menstruation that is arguably the first women’s mysteries ritual to arise from the modern neopagan movement. We heard of Z. in 1974 after it was written.

Z’s sect seems to be the largest, most organized, and most doctrinally developed variety of Dianic witchcraft, and she/they have published a lot of books. They are entitled to be heard. Nevertheless, it irks me when they claim to be the only Dianics or to represent the views of all people who choose to practice exclusively Goddess-oriented witchcraft and all female witches who prefer to work in single-gender groups.



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Red Cedar Cat

posted February 26, 2012 at 2:38 am


So, is Z’s use of the term “transies” the source of all this discussion about hate speech?

Women bleed but do not die. We birth the world. Men who have had their genitals altered do not. I do not know this term “cis”,unless it’s a ripoff of “sister” and “sis”.

Trans people complain about their oppression. Women make up the majority of the population in this country and face discrimination every day, so let’s not even go there.

And this is a simple case of men (with altered genitals) wanting to take over the private, sacred space of a Dianic ritual.

And your disrespect of Z speaks volumes about the real problem we have with strong women, apparently inside the Pagan community as well. I find the whole thing incomprehensible.

In my humble opinion, the only one who should be “sanctioned” is the leader of the protest “prayer” group that so intimidated the women participating in the ritual. Oddly reminiscent of the Randall Terry crowd. For an Elder and HPS like Z to be treated with such disrespect is shameful.

Shame on you.

Good for you, Z. You poked the patriarchy, and you are strong enough to withstand the blow. Blessed be, dear Sister.



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Gus diZerega

posted February 26, 2012 at 3:33 am


A lot of issues have been raised, some legitimate. My responses follow in hopefully bite sized chunks.

Tiggrrl ask whether what Z did was equivalent to excluding people based on their race. My answer is “no.”

No respected NeoPagan tradition claims race matters though there are fringe groups within some that do. Historically Pagans have not been very racist though they have been tribal. Some contemporary Native Americans do not want to teach whites, others equally credentialed do. I have met Blacks who were surprised that I, a white guy, could enter into possessory/incorporative trance because they had never seen it happen. As soon as they learned otherwise, no problem. They thought it was neat, actually. The bottom line is that almost no Pagans have believed race ultimately matters.

On the other hand, I think EVERY historical Pagan society differentiated between rituals for women and rituals for men as well as rituals for both. Since our beginning NeoPagans have made important distinctions based on masculinity and femininity. Our emphasis on a Goddess or Goddesses differentiates us from most previous Pagan practice in historical times.

Further, the distinction between white and nonwhite is pretty obviously blurred to a degree that does not exist with gender. Obama is half white. As a young man Ben Franklin wrote that Germans had the wrong “complexion” ever to assimilate into British America. While some people do have a mix of male and female biological characteristics, most are overwhelmingly one or the other. Modern medicine has made trans-gendered people possible, to their immense psychological relief. The question is how does this historically new development fit into religious practices where gender matters, sometimes deeply.

I explained that there are possibly significant magickal differences between men and women in the views of important Pagan traditions, differences where the issue is at least open as to whether trans women are more like men or more like women. I gave two examples, one where women could do things more easily than men – trance possession/incorporation – and one where the same likely capacities led to greater vulnerability – doing serious exorcisms. NeoPagans are exploring the first seriously, not so much the second.

I do not know how trans-women relate to these differences. I imagine few if any do. They are too new a presence on the scene for there to be much experience. I can see arguments both ways. That is grounds for letting people try both if they wish.

Trans-women also have different life histories than do other women. I would imagine a ritual regarding child birth, pregnancy, or menarche could not help but have a different impact on the two groups. Is that enough to determine who is invited? It is not my place to say. I can say that I think it is the place of those who will be leading to determine how open it will be.

I think the wise approach is to let both all inclusive women’s rituals and those limited to women by birth take place and see what happens. If the differences between the two groups of women are simply due to unfamiliarity, they will wither away with experience. If the differences are real, they will persist ion how many people choose to do ritual.



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Gus diZerega

posted February 26, 2012 at 4:30 am


Sorn agreed with Tiggrrl about the issue of race, and hopefully my response impressed both as reasonable. He also asks how I can separate politics and religion when I have often argued here that Paganism has political implications that are very important. Like Sorn, my religion colors every aspect of my life, and most certainly my politics. So am I contradicting myself?

I do not think so.

I think my definition of politics in this original post underlines my use of it everywhere. Politics is what I call the process by which people arrive at decisions within their community as to what values and policies they will enforce. It necessarily involves power.

I want to distinguish between politics in the mundane world and politics in the spiritual world, especially the Pagan spiritual world, and also how they interact.

In the mundane world while my religion gives me added strength to stand my ground in mundane politics, all my arguments are made in terms that I hope a nonPagan will also find persuasive. I am addressing the larger community and I believe I am ethically obligated to try and make my case in terms all reasonable members of that community can agree on or at least respect. The opposite of a Republican. This, by the way, is not libertarian. Libertarians have no theory of politics in this sense.

In the Pagan community because politics concerns binding decisions and our community is exceptionally diverse and NOT based on doctrine, the realm of political choice must be exceptionally narrow if we are not to split and split and split again. As the Christians demonstrate, even when they agree on a text they split over what the text means. We do not agree even that much.

Think about this: most mundane political issues involve the allocation of money, something utilitarian and easy to compromise over. Losers can easily assent and plan to win the next time. As soon as Republicans insisted politics was mostly about values that could not be provided by money the country began to split because it is hard to compromise issues like abortion, prayer in schools, and contraception compared to compromising on the Social Security tax. We deal almost entirely with values in our religion.

I am not saying politics can never enter in to Pagan life. Sometimes it does. Sometimes decisions must be made. COG gives us a pretty good model for how to address those needs when they arise. Significantly, COG is not majoritarian, its ideal is consensus, and it works because it makes it virtually impossible for a power play to happen, and so they are rarely attempted.

With a consensual ideal basic tenets of a practice are best not made into political issues unless you are willing to see those who disagree leave. The distinction between men and women considered in their traditional meaning is such a tenet for many groups. You don’t like what a group does, don’t do it yourselves but leave them alone.

That some claim I therefore dismiss, hate, dislike, or disparage transwomen is in my opinion a power play that denies the legitimacy of disagreeing with them.



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Gus diZerega

posted February 26, 2012 at 4:46 am


Jane Jetpack-
I was thinking of the ritual for 2012 and the wording of the description, flawed as it was. Many posts I read dealt with that issue and the ones I saw did not mention her saying anything disrespectful.

Z’s earlier comments the previous year were disrespectful. But Z has a long history of saying mean things about men and no one wanted to kick her out for it. Nor to my knowledge did any one do demonstrations because of her words.



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Gus diZerega

posted February 26, 2012 at 4:57 am


I am grateful for many people’s complimentary responses as well as to those of you who offered additional back ground material or thoughtful criticisms. This kind of discussion deepened my understanding of the issue, and hopefully yours as well. Ideally we will gravitate to agreement, but if not, to mutual respect.

But then there were some other posts.

I wondered how long it would be until my own motives were questioned. Not that long it seems.

This is an excellent example of what I said was so destructive when politics is engaged in by parties sincerely believing they are correct and equally certain of the other side’s bad motives. Power, posturing, invective, self-righteousness, manipulation, and similar BS substitute for argument because reasoning and understanding are subordinated to serving a predetermined position. There is no interest in learning. Nuance evaporates and “with us or against us” takes its place. I will not give those people any response because they have proven their unwillingness to understand what I actually wrote.

What I actually wrote made two basic points: politics (which I carefully defined) is inherently divisive in groups like ours, focused on power, and can rapidly expand into large divisions from small beginnings. We are seeing all that happen here. It should be avoided unless truly unavoidable.

Second, rituals historically work best with singleness of focus and so at a large Pagan gathering with many approaches present people should leave one another’s rituals alone, and do so by erring on the side of caution. No one at Pantheacon necessarily endorses everything that is done there. I don’t. So what? Maybe I will actually learn something by encountering different views!

I never suggested the issues separating the two parties have a clear resolution, quite the opposite. To my mind this is ANOTHER reason that while they can and should be matters of discussion, people’s practices should be left alone.



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Sorn

posted February 26, 2012 at 10:32 am


I’ve read your blog for some time, Gus, and I have great respect for your clear and thoughtful writing. Where I questioned motives, it was the motives of individuals like Z Budapest whose statements about men and transwomen I find distasteful, and I’m sorry if that wasn’t clear. Where I questioned you, I was primarily seeking clarification on your position. It happens to be a position I respectfully disagree with, even with your clarifications, but I appreciate your taking the time to speak further on this issue.

Red Cedar Cat, in case you care, the cis/trans terminology is, AFAIK, derived from chemistry; cis means “on the same side” and trans means “on the other side,” and in chemistry they’re used to indicate whether substituent groups are oriented in the same direction (cis) or in opposing directions (trans).

While I’ll agree with the idea that the medical procedures available for transgendered people are more advanced now, I don’t think that transgendered people can be considered a recent phenomenon. The First Nations and Native American people have some tribes that traditionally have mixed gender roles that are collectively called Two-Spirited; a relatively well-known nádleeh near where I live was Hosteen Klah, who both sandpainted (a traditionally male activity) and weaved (a traditionally female activity). The priests of Artemis were said to castrate themselves; the galli of Cybele/Attis engaged in various gender violations that were initially prohibited to Roman citizens, though eventually they were officially accepted (in fact, the Day of Blood, during which men could join the galli by using a sword on themselves, became part of the Roman religious calendar); and Ishtar was worshipped by gender-variant priests. Medically, intersexuality may be a new way to refer to individuals whose biological sex cannot be readily classified, but with mythological figures like the child of Hermes and Aphrodite, what intersexuality describes is certainly not new, and our ancestors had to have ways of incorporating intersexual individuals into their religious rituals as well (actually, that makes me wonder: what is Z’s position, and the position of those who share her viewpoint, on intersexual folks? Are they allowed, or is it strictly “normal” XX folk? Does it make a difference if the individual in question can potentially become pregnant?). My point here is not that ancient societies didn’t distinguish between men and women, but rather that persons we might consider transgender have been part of humanity for much of recorded history, and our ancestors have incorporated and accommodated transgendered people in different ways throughout history, including their participation in activities that are traditionally restricted to individuals of a specific sex. For those of us who take inspiration from different pre-Christian religions, I think it important to look at what evidence we have as to those religions’ practices regarding such issues.



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Gus diZerega

posted February 26, 2012 at 12:48 pm


Sorn- Thanks for your explanation but don’t worry. I was not really thinking of you in my last post because you engage in intelligent and respectful dialogue, seek to deal with my arguments, and ask interesting and relevant questions. Issues like this can get passionate when people care deeply and I give lots of slack in such cases, as I hope might be reciprocated to me so long as we actually try and communicate with one another rather than throwing shit like monkeys in a zoo.

However, I think your examples above actually illustrate some of my major points. (I was aware of some but not all of them. Also, interestingly, many deities have both male and female aspects, and some have both simultaneously.) They were treated as a third sex, a combination of two genders, or something else that distinguished between them and men and women. They were not treated completely as women in most or all cases.

What IS new is the claim by many transpeople that they should be regarded as full members of the gender they have sought to become as much as they can and that our not doing so is a slight or insult or ‘oppression.’ They are wrong historically and logically.

Maintaining such a distinction is NOT tied to looking down on them. Further, over time people can change who they include in their rituals because we are continually evolving. At P-Con there were inclusive rituals and non inclusive rituals. My own guess is that for most purposes inclusive rituals will increase but I would be surprised if non-inclusive ones did not persist including trans-only rituals. Indeed, I suspect that where their numbers are large enough that has already happened. If so, they acknowledge my point.

The only real “sin” in my view (and some but hardly all of my critics make the same point somehow thinking they are correcting me)is that Z is bigoted and sometimes rude and insensitive. From this man’s view that observation is hardly new.

So it seems to me that we should break this discussion down and see where we can agree and fine tune the points that remain. The basic issues to me seem to be

1. Are transwomen ritually the complete equal of women or are there differences that matter? (I have read all kinds of views here.)

2. Was Z rude. (I think we all agree she was.)

3. Is this rudeness towards other people for who they are unusual or out of character for Z? (I emphasize no, she has a long history of it. My critics seem so far to ignore the issue.)

3. Should Z be sanctioned? (We disagree.)

bb

Gus



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Greenconsciousness

posted February 26, 2012 at 1:56 pm


First thank you for this post. It is a voice of sanity from someone who actually understands the circle and the needs of effective magic. But of cource the intent of the controversy was to spoil the women’s magic, prevent the healing and block the power. All that energy directed at destroying what is good for women instead of building an alternate tradition should tell everyone that controlling women is what this incident is all about. Republicans say denying contraception and abortion is not about controlling women but rather about freedom of religion. But their motives are clear and so are the motives of the transsexuals and their supporters in this action.

But Z’s original words were not hate speech even though she has been shamed into making them more spiritually correct. I will explain a little but much cannot be said. It is strange to me that pagans do not instinctively understand but……

I want to show what Z means by infiltrators. Cis is not a word used by women to self define. Cis is a word created by transsexuals in a sociology dept who are PASSING as women. They decided there was a need to find a word other than women to define women. A word which defines women in relation to transsexuals. It is a word used to blur the genetic and biological differences between women and surgically made women. It denies genetics and biology. It denies the most sacred of mysteries which is the blood that is essential to produce new life. That is the mystery which no transsexual can know. More than that cannot be said here.

There is no need for the word Cis woman. To say woman is enough. The other is transsexual to woman. Cis is a political word used to degrade women into some polarity of transsexuals. That is why feminists insist that transsexuals clearly identify them self as transsexuals not women. Because transsexuals who are not clear about their biology have no right to say they are women and these are our politics and this is the language we women want to use to identify and define women. Yet all those who lie about their sexuality and biology and who self identify as women are doing this right now. This is more male oppression of women.

How many times do you hear the word “cis man”? Never,- because it is the male to female transsexual who insists on infiltrating women’s space bringing the sense of male entitlement to bully, define and force. It is a very familiar dynamic to feminists. Female to male transsexuals do not have the same need to force their language and politics on biologically natural males. And natural males are a powerful group as compared to natural women.

It has been a 100 year struggle for women to win the right to define ourselves. Transsexuals passing as women have no more right to label women than the men (and women) who use words like bitch, cunt, chick, dyke, fox, bird, etc., to define women. Part of the mystery is to take the power to self define and control the self and destiny. The word cis is a label invented by males passing as women to define women in the transsexuals own image and politics. To use it is to be male identified.

When some say, “I am a feminist, dianic, and cis”, they do not understand feminism or the mysteries.

Be careful about what you label hate speech. Those who fought the feminist battle for the last 40 years know all about hate speech and misogyny in very deep and profound ways which may not be apparent to those who now enjoy the benefit of their sacrifice. And from years of organizing, feminists know a lot about provocateurs, gender stereotyping and delusion.



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Christy

posted February 26, 2012 at 2:03 pm


So, I am sure your intentions are good, and I can see your points to some extent, but I keep hearing some kind of parallel in the back of my mind echoing a “blacks shouldn’t come to a predominantly white church because it’ll make the white people uncomfortable and keep them from the full experience of their God.” It just doesn’t sit right with me.

Thank you for your thoughtful reflection.



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Marea

posted February 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm


I keep reading people comparing this to blacks being excluded from all-white rituals. Turn it around. Imagine an all-black ritual where they don’t want to include whites, because they couldn’t really understand what they’ve been through. Would people fight as hard against that? Just curious.



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Gus diZerega

posted February 26, 2012 at 3:03 pm


Greenconsciousness-

Thank you for your support. We agree on many points. That said, I want to explore an issue where I think we disagree because I think it is very important. Indeed, it is why I started this post.

I do not see bad motives as very significant on either side of this controversy. I see different judgments of how a new development within our community should be interpreted, and because how it is interpreted deals with issues fundamental to many Pagans, these judgments are passionately held.

The people who demonstrated to protest Z’s words or her ritual or the way her ritual was described seem to me overwhelmingly sincere in their motives. Many are strong women by any standard. The women who support Z and oppose the demonstration as inappropriate or wrong seem to me equally sincere, strong and honorable. In both groups, as in any sizeable group, there are likely a few who want to gin up conflict as a means to rise to personal prominence, but remember the women most associated with both positions are already leading members of our community. I doubt either Z or Thorn thinks they have much to gain from it and both are acting from intense personal conviction as to what is right.

It is precisely these kinds of controversies that should be kept as localized as possible. Fight it out if you must within a tradition, This happens all the time, and sometimes traditions split over them. I am a Gardnerian so I am no stranger to these kinds of things. And I think they are inevitable because there is no clear answer to these kinds of issues. When they take place at a small scale I think on balance they are positive developments no matter how they turn out. But their positive aspects are scale dependent and diminish as it increases whereas the bad aspects seem to work the other way around. Or so it seems to me from looking at both political and religious history, including the plight of the US today.

That is why they should be avoided like the plague within the Pagan community as a whole. When we are in passionate disagreement it is easy to attribute bad motives to those who seemingly perversely disagree with us, and then have bad motives attributed to us by them in turn. I see this dynamic beginning to happen here.

Once both sides think the others’ motives are bad it becomes very difficult to avoid escalation or splits. It also becomes very hard to be taken seriously by either side if you do not unequivocally support one or the other. You must be with us or against us, the George Bush style of diplomacy and war. Along the way issues of spiritual practice, our larger common identity as Pagans, and our awareness that the Spiritual is the context where we should view politics rather than our politics being the context from which we view spirituality all get lost.

I would ask everyone reading this discussion to please remind themselves that those who disagree with them do so sincerely and from well meaning motives. I think this is true 95 to 99% of the time.



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Greenconsciousness

posted February 26, 2012 at 4:29 pm


Guy

I do not think I am questioning motives as much as stating the obvious. People generally understand if they load a gun, point it and pull the trigger, a bullet will explode from the chamber and hit in the direction they aim. Especially if they have experienced magic. So Coyle used the gun and the bullets are out of the chamber. Who is surprised? The result was intended.

The protest “meditation” reminded me of the Christians who stand outside the abortion clinks praying. Even Rabbit who, with good motives, standing outside singing between the 2 groups — was intimidating and horrific to women who wanted to go in. Did no one think of the effect of singing outside the space on participants who did not want to hear that reminder of protest once they were inside. Mentally all of it destroyed the participation and anyone who has ever been in a real circle would know that. You cannot deny this. Coyle knew, the transsexuals knew and they intended the result.

How could any intelligent person not know this would be the result? No, I think your friend Coyle’s ego was operating here. There were many harder but more sincere ways to support transsexuals, primarily by leading them in their own ritual or teaching them how to create their ritual so they might lead. Because if they know how – why didn’t they do their own ritual and invite their supporters? From the comments I read there would have been many more people at their group than at Z’s. And that would be fine. Some women welcomed the transpeople and they could have gone there. But that would not have met their need to be validated and nothing ever will satisfy a need that is not external. They don’t get the meaning of the Hermit card. So punish natural women and force natural women. Play the victim. Form factions. Kill the leader.

The intent of the protest was to shame the participants’ energy in service to what Coyle wants to represent as a more politically correct position. The word I am searching for is righteousness — a display of spiritual righteousness.

And it had terrible consequences, deeper than are revealed at this time. Meditating without any publicity would not have been noticed. Coyle did more than that.

This is bad – very bad and no one will be safe from the consequences except those whose intent was truly innocent. Coyle may be regretting her behavior and coming to a new understanding. If so she needs to state clearly that she was wrong and the transsexuals are wrong. Drop the rationalization of Z’s so called hate speech and take responsibility fully, not the rambling avoidance of responsibility she has been writing lately. I also urge everyone to rethink what is actually hate speech and what is free speech — honest free speech. The hurt trans feel is not from Z’s words but in their own souls. Deal with that instead of making an altar of victimhood and blaming.

I was a feminist organizer for over 20 years. I know exactly what that kind of standing outside a space action is meant to do. Women in Virginia just surrounded the state capital in silent vigil. It is a shaming AND a threat. Coyle is not 17. She may be a tool or an instigator but she disrupted a magical event just as the Christians try to do with their prayer campaigns.

More guilty are the male to female transsexuals who are trying to force women or worse, who are passing as women in spiritual gatherings. They are fools because we will protect in self defense.

Z has linked to your post. I admire this post.



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Marea

posted February 26, 2012 at 5:56 pm


Sorry to post again. I just read what T. Thorne Coyle said about this. Both she and Z. have both really been (pardon my language) half-assed about this. Their apologies are “I’m sorry about your hurt feelings, but…” Greenconsciousness made a good point about folks who pray outside abortion clinics. I see the points of both sides, but this whole thing has just made me decide I never want to attend something like this. I’d rather stay at home and never experience ten lovely rituals and one really nasty situation. I could go back to church for that.



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Hearth M. Rising

posted February 26, 2012 at 7:56 pm


Thank you for your post, Gus. And I appreciate the comments here, which have been more respectful than elsewhere. I hadn’t thought about the fact that Z has made inflammatory statements about men as well as transwomen, and no one protested. I have known Z as a loving, warm-hearted person who has a tendency to speak hastily in anger when she is provoked. And she has been provoked quite a bit by men and transwomen, who have consistently challenged her right to confine her ministry to women, as she defines the word. I am glad she chose to apologize in this instance for hurting others. She does not need to apologize for being at a conference and setting her own parameters for a ritual.



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Rev Cathryn Platine

posted February 27, 2012 at 12:00 pm


Thank you for injecting some most needed sanity to this issue………



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CMWolf

posted February 27, 2012 at 1:25 pm


How funny is this world?! I just yesterday heard someone say ‘there are no coincidences, it’s just God’s way of remaining anonymous’ So brilliant and apt.
The coincidence is that I am a member of an online Goddess-centric group. The Panth. controversy sparked a thread that would just snowballed as we discussed almost every point you have just made in your article. Then abruptly the whole conversation was deleted by an administrator who felt it was becoming too heated. She acted with the best of intentions but it caused a firestorm within our community because we were all fully engaged, really hashing out our thoughts, trying to understand our differing perspectives, etc.
Today one of the wisest elders among us posted a link to this page and here I find much of what we had lost, articulated very clearly and non-judgementally…an ‘outside’ voice handing back just about everything we had hashed out over a couple of days in many posts. The prospect of recompiling (sk?)that content was daunting to say the least and tempers were flaring already that it had been deleted.
Thank you so much for this mindful article. It is immensely helpful in our particular recent… I want to say ‘conflict’ but that puts the wrong spin on it. Boiling Point…as in ‘toil and trouble.
I’m looking forward to reading some of the other responses written here but for now will just say again, thank you Brother. Peace <3 CMWolf



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Mike the Heathen

posted February 27, 2012 at 2:29 pm


Excellent post, Gus! I’m adding your blog to the (very short) list of those which I make a point to read regularly.



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Sharon Knight

posted February 27, 2012 at 5:48 pm


Thank you Gus. I feel you just wrote the article I have been trying to write, in many ways. And I am not a writer, so it takes me days away from my true work to articulate thoughts like this. You’ve just saved me a lot of time! This situation has been very uncomfortable for me, because I find myself sympathizing with Z where most of my close friends do not share my views. I agree that Z’s comments were harsh and hurtful and that she should apologize. I also think she has apologized. She has said “I am sorry that I have hurt people’s feelings” not “I am sorry that your feelings were hurt”. This shows personal responsibility IMO. Also the “Whites only” analogy is over the top. “Whites only” is almost always about superiority. “Cis-women only (etc.)” is almost always about feeling safe. Someone in your comments section (I can’t find it now though I’ve looked twice) mentioned a point I have made elsewhere, and that is that women who are recovering from abuse at the hands of men have a need for rituals where they are not confronted by male bodies. No one acknowledged her post. I am doing so now. It saddens me to think that these women could be demonized as bigots simply because they have a need to be in a “biological women only” space. Indeed political correctness can be taken too far sometimes. Your suggestion to allow all types of circles to exist, and the ones that thrive or die will be decided by relevance, seems perfectly sound to me. It’s the most non-polarized suggestion I’ve seen yet.



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Ffiona Morgan

posted February 27, 2012 at 6:13 pm


I live up north US and have not been to this particular celebration, ever. I heard about the hoopla and decided to read the blogs, etc.
I am an ordained Dianic Priestess, as well, and I do know that that term in itself connotes “women only”–and that means “women born”, and has been practiced in this branch of the Craft for a very long time. Women-born-women space gives many a place to honor Goddess without the energetic presence of those who love Her, but were not born as women. I just dont understand why a Dianic ritual should be expected to be transformed to include others, as gentle, nice and well-meaning as they might be. Some women are “triggered” by the presence of non-women-born individuals, from past traumatic events in their lives, and count on Dianic rituals as a place they can feel entirely safe. I think that if the organizers didnt want a woman-born-woman-only ritual, they should have turned down Z’s, and as it has been mentioned in these blogs,Gay Men-only rituals happen all the time. As for this being a “public” place, and therefore all rituals should be open to all people in that public place, then make it a rule for this event–that any ritual presented cannot exclude anyone– then we all can be at peace or stay at home.
Ffiona Morgan, author of Daughters of the Moon Tarot, Goddess Spirituality Book, Mysteries of the Goddess and The Lesbian Erotic Cookbook. daughtersofthemoon.com



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Sarenth

posted February 28, 2012 at 2:57 am


My personal view is this: I find Z. Budapest’s ideas about men and transsexuals abhorrent. However, as with the Con I just recently attended, there are some workshops that I simply won’t attend because they do not interest me. I hold the same idea in regards to her rituals. She does not like men. Therefore, I will not be attending her rituals. However, I know that some people get an amazing amount of healing done at these rituals, and for some people this is the only space that they can feel safe in and get to. I would not, therefore, deny these women that time and place for healing.

What I do object to is the exclusionary language included in a sentence that refers to the Goddess of Wicca “in all her infinite form” then proceeds to say “genetic women only”. I do not feel you can say this contradictory phrase with anything other than judgment and vitriol against transwomen. If The Goddess includes all Goddesses, then what of the transsexual Goddesses, named and unnamed who are part of Her? Are They no longer Goddesses, but, as Z. has called transwomen, “men made women on an operating table”?

There is a current in many Dianics who are aligned with Z. who have commented both on this blog and others that I find disturbing: there is a lot of commentary going on as to the condition of another’s soul and psyche, a lot of speculation that I find both specious and unhelpful. Things such as “The hurt trans feel is not from Z’s words but in their own souls” is neither helpful, nor sympathetic but is incredibly overreaching and assumptive. While it may not be intended in this way, it reads as if you are saying that you know the transsexual soul more than the transsexual hirself, or others in the transsexual community. For myself, I would not appreciate others speculating and providing judgment on the state of my soul or psyche in such a way.

The other thing that I find common in these comments here and otherwise, is the idea that ciswomen are more victimized in society than transsexuals are. True, ciswomen are more numerous, but transsexuals as a community are far more often victims of assault, battery, abuse, neglect, etc. as the report makes obvious here: “The high proportion of transgender and people of color murder victims reflect a broader pattern in NCAVP’s 2010 data, transgender people and LGBTQH people of color experience severe and deadly forms of hate violence, with less access to appropriate anti-violence services and support.” and here: “Transgender women represented 44% of antiLGBTQH murders in 2010 but only represented 11% of the total reports.”

This is from a 2011 report from the National Coalition of Antiviolence Programs:
http://www.avp.org/documents/NCAVPHateViolenceReport2011Finaledjlfinaledits.pdf

Some ciswomen will not acknowledge transwomen’s gender in line with their own. That they are denying themselves the sisterhood of transwomen, in my view, is their loss. I hope that all sides can find healing, and that PantheaCon can find resolution.



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Einar

posted February 28, 2012 at 3:13 am


I haven’t read through all of the comments but I find some of your (gus) comments with regards to race disconcerting as it shows inconsistency of thought. As a Heathen I have encountered many heated debates on the subject of folkish groups and I find your open dismissal troubling. I am not folkish but the subject is at least as complex as this one. Many belief structures feel connection with one’s ancestors to be an important part and feel that being of the same ancestry is vital to being able to properly connect with important rituals. I do feel this is a valid point and that people, when looking for a path, should look to their ancestry as a factor. Also, you brought up how Pagans have had gender specific rituals for as long as we have records. This isn’t a very good argument as you could just as easily say the same thing about race. For most of human history your racial identity was more important than gender in determining one’s spiritual path and frankly it still is. I am not saying that people of different ancestral heritage can’t be called to different paths than their ancestors; I strongly believe they can. I welcome anyone who would walk the same path as me. However, to say that it is okay to not allow people to be involved because they are the other(or them) trying to infiltrate the same (us)to devalue a path is not political and okay and then to say that saying that only people of a certain ancestry can be involved is something that no respectable neopagan group would do is very inconsistent.



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Sonneillon

posted February 28, 2012 at 1:08 pm


*sigh*

This entire post shows a good deal of ignorance for basic, 101 concepts. Everywhere in the blogosphere I feel like those of us who stand with our trans* siblings are being forced to drag people back to 101 concepts. The personal IS the political. Separate is NOT equal. Choosing to single out a group for ‘othering’ and exclusion DOES do emotional and societal harm. Trans* women are women, period. Half of your arguments come straight out of Derailing For Dummies.

And if your group performing the maypole ritual had chosen to explain the energy that was supposed to be contained in each of the roles and then let each individual decide where they belonged, there would have been no need for people to feel they were being pigeonholed and no need for you to feel like the energy of your ritual was being warped by people who had the dastardly gall to think being lumped into categories by gender was BS. I’m sorry it disrupts your life when queer people push back against hetero- and cis- stereotypes about them, but that’s an expression of your privilege.



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Lemuria

posted February 28, 2012 at 3:23 pm


If I may, I’d like to re-visit something you said, Gus—you wrote:

——————————
I worked 6 years in an intense Brazilian healing center doing work as demanding and difficult as my previous PhD from Berkeley. Among many other things we did a small number of big exorcisms. They could be pretty intense.

Women at the center were not allowed to participate. I asked my teacher, Antonio, why.

He said that women were far more able to take energies in than were men because they were the means by which a spirit entered into a body to take birth. Consequently, they were at greater danger of picking up bad stuff. They were just as capable magickally at doing the work, but risked more when doing it.

It is a fact that most possessory mediums are women in every culture I know of that has the phenomena. Often the few men who are also mediums are regarded as gay. I know this need not be the case because I am such a medium and I am not gay. But the broader statistics are pretty clear.

To the extent Antonio’s description is accurate, a trans-woman and a birth woman are not the same within magickal work. In fact I’d ask a trans-woman to help me long before I asked a woman. I would NOT have a woman helping me unless there were no other possibility and she were informed that she would be at greater risk than I.
———————————-

I agree with Antonio’s description, and I have felt the “merging” effect of women together in energy sharing. I can see how Z (or any ritualist) would not want trans-women in the ritual because of this VERY REAL difference in ENERGY on the psychic and spiritual plane.

I do know that most of us have had past lives as different genders than we are now, and that we do express energy differently in accordance to how we incarnate our spirits into this world. If transwomen are born with male bodies or other male physical parts, there is a spiritual reason for it.

I believe that we all are Women, really, and that Males are simply Women who have decided explore a “push out” and exploring of the energy, rather than “hold the energy in.” So learning to work with our different energies can be thrilling and it’s really exciting to be in the midst of this kind of Gender Consciousness.

My hope is that we can work and play with these new energies for the good of the Earth and Her/His children. ;-)



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Gus diZerega

posted February 28, 2012 at 3:45 pm


I am grateful for the many positive messages. Thank you. There is a lot of good discussion here from many perspectives as well. From a more critical perspective, Einar has addressed some important issues, and so I will respond.

The other negative comments seem to me to add nothing but personal witnessing other than Sarenth’s comments about who is more victimized than who. That is a debate I will not enter and I personally think it leads no where good. But Einar’s comments on ancestors and race is one I will discuss.

As I read this post Einar equates ethnicity with race. I do not. So far as I know, historically tribal identity counted more than race. Of course tribes started off racially homogeneous, but that was not a part of their identity as a tribe. Many tribes would adopt others when they felt it useful or appropriate, regardless of race. And if the scientists who study this issue are correct, we Europeans are genuine hybrids, sharing DNA with Neanderthals because somewhere long ago some folks got it on with one another and raised the kids. Clearly tribes back then could adopt half-Neanderthals, someone far more radically different than contemporary races.

I can see a valid reason for an ethnic group to want to meet together religiously and preserve their identity in that way, by connecting more strongly with their spiritual heritage. I am thinking of Lakota traditionalists who disapprove of teaching whites. It’s not just a Folkish thing. But importantly, other traditional teachers do teach whites if they deem them deserving.

Broadly speaking, basic Native American spirituality is not racially or ethnically defined although some forms are entirely embedded within a tribe’s membership. Some groups confine their practice to people with the same or similar cultural history or ethnic identity. I respect what they do as legitimate UNTIL they say, for example, that I cannot attend a sweat lodge because it is their exclusive practice. Bullshit. That is just human pride and the shadow side of tribalism of which the world has seen more than enough. Spirit makes those decisions, not people. I hope this shows I have no principled opposition to ethnic groups meeting together to celebrate their spiritual traditions.

I think we can justify those who emphasize ethnicity for one of the same reason we can justify covens as being exclusive and closed. It increases harmony in the group. A strong ethnic community lives in a world that is significantly different from the world of other communities. But for the same reasons I think covens have no reason to perform closed rituals at Pantheacon, I think it inappropriate for them to come to Pantheacon and offer closed rituals.

I strongly believe ancestors should be honored, and I do honor them. I have never thought of them in racial terms. Perhaps this comes from living in a culture of “mutts” where a majority of Americans are of many mixes. In terms of religious honor, ancestors seem to me to fall along several equally legitimate lines: family, religious history (for me, Gerald Gardner would be one), species history.

I am VERY hostile to making race an important distinction in religion. I think religion deals with the largest contexts of relevance in our lives. Any religion that sets itself apart and excludes others for human reasons has a high bar to jump to get any sympathy from me. I can see legitimate reasons for this when the distinction is made due to basic differences in experience or gender or other basic life experiences, but beyond this I am hostile. I do not think race can justify this distinction. I think those wanting to make race as basic a distinction are doing so because they are racists first and religious second. I could be wrong I guess, but I have never seen reason to think I am.

Hopefully our differences are rooted in what I see as your using “race” where I would use “ethnic” or “tribal.”



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Deborah Bender

posted February 28, 2012 at 6:39 pm


Very well expressed, Gus. I agree with every point you made about ethnicity and religion.

Some cultures that have strong clan or familial ancestor cults (I’m thinking of the Chinese and ancient Romans) also have cults or ceremonies that are open to all people regardless of ancestry.

A general observation–I could give specific examples from my own ethnicity and religious heritage but it would make the post very long:

Us/Them boundaries tend to be most sharply defined when there is a power imbalance between the groups and either or both feel threatened by the other. The fear may be justified objectively by the actual current behavior of the other group, or be based on memories of past interactions, or fear of what the other group may do in the future.

When fear levels are low, people can pass easily between groups without going to great lengths to prove they belong. When fear levels are high, people who have attachments to both groups are likely to be mistrusted and have trouble being accepted anywhere.

This state of affairs isn’t good for religions or for individual spiritual development.



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Falcon River

posted March 1, 2012 at 12:18 pm


Hello Gus, As a Dianic Elder and ordained Priestess I deeply appreciate this article and your clear, thoughtful analysis of the issues.
Goddess Bless, Falcon River



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fireweed

posted March 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm


Wow, the writer of this article really doesn’t understand trans experience at all. This list I’ve attached to the comments may help understand what trans people have to put up with on a daily basis and why this isn’t just “politics”, it’s personal and it’s hate. Reducing any protest of hate speech and discrimination to “politics” is truly condescending. What about the “politics” of exclusion? Turning the writers logic on its head we could just as easily say that Z and those putting on exclusive rituals are choosing politics and enforcing them on the larger community (who to include–who is “valid” attend–and who to exclude–who is “invalid” to attend. THAT is also a political choice. So to state that one side is political and another is not is disingenous and misleading. Every choice we make is “political” so there is no way to exclude politics from anything. In fact, this article is entirely speaking from the politics of priviledge, the view from the center. It’s a common tactic of those in power to say that their position or view is beyond politics because it’s so pervasive that it’s “normal”. Why should we do gender-exclusive rituals because there is a historical tradition of them? Why does that get to be our “normal” and “non-political” norm? Just because people have a entrenched history of exclusion that makes it OK to continue to exclude? Pagans also used to sacrifice bulls and Romans used to have public executions and all sorts of barbarity and we don’t ape those behaviours. We don’t ape them because we’ve learned to do better. We’ve learned that sacrificing bulls is barbaric and cruel. Maybe it’s time to learn that gender-exclusive rituals are also cruel and something better left in the past.



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fireweed

posted March 1, 2012 at 12:54 pm


http://queersunited.blogspot.com/2008/08/cisgender-privilege-checklist.html

OK that link didn’t show up in the previous comment. Here it is.



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Gus diZerega

posted March 1, 2012 at 9:23 pm


Fireweed there is little for me to say beyond suggesting you try and read what I wrote.

Not being trans I have no clear idea what it is to live as one. Nor did I claim to know. That point is 100% irrelevant to the arguments I made.



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SnowMoonChild

posted March 2, 2012 at 3:54 pm


As someone who is gender variant, I generally do not like the idea of non-inclusive spaces/rituals. We may venerate spiritual forces with images of our physical bodies and ideas of biology, but ultimately the divine is not physically bound, and so it makes no sense to me to define our “energy” in relation to it with terms or ideas of our physical bodies. These connections are more metaphorical than literal. In that way, I deny the idea that someone can not know what it is to be female or male because of their body. Female and male are not absolutes. There are many people who have physical characteristics that set them apart from the gender/sex norm – people who are infertile for example, or people who are intersex (of which there are more than most realize). Furthermore, I don’t think that encouraging an ideal of separation or discomfort is in any way healthy.

That being said, everyone has limitations, or even just preferences. I don’t think we should force people to be inclusive for everything. It is up the the group and the individuals to determine what works for them. I hope that everyone continues to learn and grow and expand their ideas of what makes us who we are and how we can connect and communicate, and as long as we are all open to that effort, I do not expect immediate or drastic change. Respect and understanding are more important than being all-inclusive. We all have the right to drawn boundaries around our ideas of community and spirituality.

There are many cultures in which gender-variant or intersexed individuals have their own place in society and ritual. In some cases this has even given them spiritual roles that are quite specific and unique. Should we also deny those ideas because they may be different than the roles given others? I think to do so would also be wrong. Everyone deserves recognition and inclusion, but we don’t all need it for the same things at the same times.

Expressing the infinite is just that – expressing a myriad of manifestations and ideas, all combinations. It does not mean we have to mash everyone and everything together. There is value and power in each individual expression. Trying to cover it all does sometimes end up watering it down.

There should absolutely be groups that welcome trans individuals, just like there should be groups who accept intersex individuals and lesbian/gay/bi individuals. There should even be groups specifically for them, if they so desire. And there are. To each their own. I think it is of more usefulness to build those ideas and communities, and be able for our similar but distinct communities to come together and share, than it is to try and force ONE singular community. As someone who was born genetically male, is attracted to other self-identified males (both cis and trans), identifies as being gender variant/ post-gender, and who admittedly offers more to my image/idea of the goddess than my image/idea of the god, this is my personally opinion. Nothing less and nothing more.



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Hearth M. Rising

posted March 2, 2012 at 9:38 pm


Gus, I like what you have to say about race and religion. Would you consider writing some of these ideas in a blogpost, not just a comment?



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Psychic Oranum

posted March 3, 2012 at 5:16 pm


A really long article but you gave me a whole lot to think about. It’s really nice to read a blog with suck a great content. You can really tell that you have been putting a lot of time thinking trough this!
Looking forward to your next post!



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Gus diZerega

posted March 4, 2012 at 1:25 am


Hearth- I am pretty overwhelmed with stuff at the moment – so will you do me a favor? Send me a reminder in a few weeks? I am over stretched at the moment.

Thanks.



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Pitch313

posted March 5, 2012 at 3:05 pm


First, this situation perplexes and bewilders me. Probably because I suspect or intuit that every outlook upon it probably holds more of something positive or appropriate than negative or inappropriate.

Second, I identify myself as a Pagan because I am a magic worker and the Trads with which I am affiliated are Trads of magic workers. Magic, as I understand it and carry it out, involves change and transformation.

And here we find Pagans contending about change and transformation and what they do or do not bring about. About, in my eyes, magic.

Bewildering.

The closest I can come to an insight about this is that magic will run its course, and we do not know what course that is, precisely, in advance. Always, this and that takes place that we did not anticipate or intend.

Let me add that all the little experience that I have vis a vis folks changing genders in a Pagan community tells me that this transformation reverberates far and wide across the community, and appears to delve deeply into a host of stuff.

Often scary stuff. Often highly valued stuff. Often world view stuff. Often core personal stuff. Often crackling with energies stuff.

Although this may sound lame, I think that patience, balance in Earth-rootedness, and compassion light the way here.



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Raven

posted March 5, 2012 at 11:35 pm


I’m not really sure what benefit a transgender would get from being in a group of all natural women once the conversation turns to menstrual cycles, and “feminine problems”, and birthing children, and menopause, and the stages of maiden, mother and crone in a woman’s life. What kind of experience and advice can a transgender offer in such conversation, or, as an elder woman to a younger woman going through such events for the first time? Sure, the transgender could listen, and learn, but, it’s not the same as being a natural woman who experiences all, or some of these things.

It’s challenging enough being a naturally born woman, and dealing with all the changes that naturally born women go through with their bodies. How can a person born the opposite gender experience these same bodily changes, and events(menarche, pregnancy, childbirth, breast feeding, menopause)and thoroughly understand them? They can’t.
And vice versa.

Feeling like a woman, and dressing like one, and making one’s self up to look like one (by whatever means, surgical, etc…) is not going to give one the same understanding of what it is to truly live the life of a natural born woman.

I support the idea of some groups being separated by gender, or culture, or sexual preference or whatever at events such as Pantheacon. I also see a need for all to gather together for certain events, as well. I feel as you do, Gus…leave these smaller, seperate groups alone, and let them do their thing when they need to. Diversity pertains to the identity of groups as well as the identity of individuals. Aren’t we as Pagans to celebrate that?

Like the song says..”We’re one, but we’re not the same. We get to carry each other. Carry each other….one life, but we’re not the same…”



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z budapest

posted March 10, 2012 at 2:20 pm


You realize of course that we are talking about 90 minutes out of a year, along with hundreds of other trads at P con.
Women’s Mysteries had been there for all the Cons. from the very first one.
Suddenly the Trans folk (they don’t speak for all Transsexuals,) decided that their need to be accepted outweighs the women’s need for freedom of religion, the right to be with each other, as women.I should just throw over women’s need to worship? The virulent anger against me supposedly was justified with the one line i wrote a year and half ago. It has not been hate speech. In fact it was something totally true, hence “hurtful”.
Ever since that time i am getting thick and heavy death threats, real hate speech, wishing me dead.
Many so called quotes had been created for me to spread around, total nonsense, inciting vitriolic attacks in cyber space, WIKKi attacks, and an ancient anger that don’t belong to me not other women.
I dont see Women’s Mysteries in opposition to Mixed circles, more men worship the Goddess the better the world .



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Cynthia

posted March 21, 2012 at 2:19 pm


Very well said and very thought-filled and heart felt.
I wanted to share an experience I had with a friend who now identifies as a trans man. I recall a women only gathering at her home. We were all playing with a Wii game and talking loudly (well, at least I was) and sharing ourselves as we always do when together. My friend had started testosterone treatment, and we could all see the changes taking place. A surgery was planned, but many months away.
At a moment in the play and free-wheeling comments that happen when women get together, I suddenly stood still inside myself thinking, “should I be saying these things in front of____? This is the way we talk and act when there are only “women” in the space. What now? I can feel _____’s energy shifting and…a divide opening up between us. Certainly this was MY feeling, I did not share with anyone how I was feeling, nor did I ask my friend how He/She felt at that moment, but…the feeling was there. It was most unexpected, and I have yet to reconcile it within myself, but I do know, for that evening at least, I stepped back a little bit, and did not share as intimately with all the others there for the rest of the evening because, now, there was a “man” present.
I share this because, I have worked and walked with and played with trans men and trans women, and all manner of my community who identify themselves as trans or bi or all the other id’s, without blinking. They are who they are. I am who I am. But the feeling was there, and I now am working my way through it.
So…do I want to have space that is specifically designated for cis-women only in which to perform ritual? Yes. Always? No. I stand with any woman or man who wishes to have specific energetic perameters within which to connect to spirit. C.



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