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:
- T. Thorn Coyle writes for Patheos.com about gender, duality, and diversity, urging us to “fight with open hands and open hearts, and embrace each other as we will, whatever we call ourselves, however we express ourselves, whomever we may be, or are becoming.”
- Also on Patheos.com, Devin Hunter of the Modern Witch Podcast brings a male Dianic witch’s perspective to the issues currently being discussed. Noting that a new collaboration between Hunter and CAYA founder Ms. Rabbit Matthews has begun “to work together to explore the mysteries of a joint Dianic practice, one that is open to all regardless of gender or gender variation.”
- Journalist and Dianic crone witch Victoria Slind-Flor, who was at PantheaCon but not at the ritual or subsequent talk, thinks that at public events “the people who wish to attend are themselves the arbiters of whether they are male or female enough to participate.”
- Pagan academic and Dianic Witch Wendy Griffin, who was in attendance at the PantheaCon discussion panel concerning the ritual in question, found the frame of gender discrimination “biased the event from the start.” Noting that a panel called “Gender Discrimination vs. Religious Freedom,” would have produced a very different discussion. Right before PantheaCon Griffin had written a defense of “women born women” events after encountering the issue at a recent conference.
- Christina at the Bay Area Pagan Newswire Collective bureau has posted part one of her write-up of transgender inclusion/exclusion issues at this year’s PantheaCon, writing that a “beautiful, painful, and necessary thing happened this year [...] people started talking about gender and ritual, particularly transgender exclusion from Dianic rituals.”
- Thora Drakos, an ordained Priestess in the Wildflower Tradition of CAYA Coven, and a soon-to-be ordained High Priestess in the Amazon Tradition of CAYA Coven, shares her report as someone who attended the Lilith ritual, and part of the subsequent discussion panel. Her report closes with the assertion that “we have a lot to gain from contributing thoughtfully to this discussion.”
- In addition to Thora Drakos, other CAYA Amazon Tradition members and Priestesses have weighed in. Mistress Ladybug emphasizes that “any future women’s ritual we may have the honor of hosting at PantheaCon will be inclusive of all self-identifying women.” Branwen exlaims that “there simply is enough power, healing, and Divine for all to have the sacred space they need,” and Rowan “would love to see a world in which difference is not feared and is, in fact, celebrated.”
- Finally, some folks who’ve weighed in previously, Kenaz Filan and P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, have done so again, Sannion tries to find the humor in hurtful words, and Foxfetch writes a manifesto demanding “transcentric imagery, gods and goddess with the wide variety of trans bodies, trans genitals, trans selves.”
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.”