Update: Gender, Transgender, Religious Rites, and Inclusion

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  March 5, 2011 — 516 Comments

If one topic dominated the Pagan web this week it has to be repercussions over the exclusion of transgendered women at a public women-only ritual during this year’s PantheaCon, and the subsequent discussions between Dianic Goddess worshipers, transgender advocates, and eventually, Pagans of all stripes, that emerged from it. When I first mentioned the matter on Sunday, only a few sites were addressing the issue, that ballooned by Tuesday, grew further the next day once official statements were released by CAYA Coven and PantheaCon organizers, and has now gone truly viral in scope. One of my entries relating to this discussion has garnered around 400 comments, and the topic is buzzing on Pagan blogs, social networks, e-lists, and message boards.

I’m going to provide a fresh round-up of voices on this issue, but first I wanted to quickly touch on why this one incident, clearly not intended to cause hurt or offense by CAYA organizers, has grown into a far larger conversation than many could have foreseen. In short, CAYA’s Amazon Priestess Tribe’s Rite of Lilith acted as a catalyst for a long-overdue conversation about the role of gender, and transgender individuals, within modern Paganism. If you look at how quickly modern Paganism has grown in the span of a single generation, particularly in the United States, it shouldn’t surprise anyone. When Margot Adler’s “Drawing Down the Moon” was initially published in 1979, gay and lesbian Pagans were just emerging from decades of silence and marginalization within our interconnected communities, now, 32 years later, we’re having serious discussions about “Gay Paganism’s Second Wave.” In such an atmosphere, the issue of how we treat, respect, and integrate transgendered individuals was destined to stop being a fringe topic dealt with only in passing, or in isolated corners, and demand a wider discussion.

Here are a new batch of links relating to this discussion:

We are at a crossroads now with this discussion, and despite a few sour notes, most of exchanges I’ve seen have been reasoned, open, empathetic, passionate, and willing to create a dialog that is inclusive and productive. I have few illusions that all problems will be “solved,” but I do think what we are witnessing here is historic, and will change us in ways we can’t envision now. I think the future that Foxfetch demands will become a reality far quicker than any of us might realize, and that modern Paganism, a movement so ready to accept change, challenges, and differences, yet still remain identifiable and vital, will ultimately benefit from it. The collective maturity and willingness we’ve displayed so far in these discussions is a credit to our family of faiths, and when future historians look back at this time they will say “this is when transgendered Pagans began to receive the full embrace and respect of their coreligionists.”

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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