Transgender inclusion debates re-ignite in Pagan community

TWH – Over the past year, issues related to transgender rights have crested in mainstream social discourse. The most recent national debate has centered around the passage of North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act (also known as House Bill 2 or HB2) that, among other things, “blocks local governments from allowing transgender persons to use bathrooms that do not match the biological sex.”

The collective Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, as diverse microcosms of the greater whole, are not free from similar debates, discussions and, at times, serious conflicts on the subject of transgender inclusion. While never fully disappearing from the culture’s meta-dialog, there are times when a particular event or action rekindles the conversation with renewed fervor, pushing it to the forefront of communication.

And that is exactly what has happened over the past month, reaching a fever pitch last week. Transgender inclusion became a focused topic in a conversation at the Pagan Unity Festival (PUF) in Tennessee and, similarly, the subject became the focus of online protests due to a newly proposed anthology edited by musician, author and priestess Ruth Barrett.

While some of the dialog was offline, most of it appeared in digital forums. Those people who do not use social media regularly or not all, may have seen or heard only bits and pieces of the conversation. Through interviews and public postings, The Wild Hunt has put together a look at just what happened and why.

“I guess this all started three weeks ago at Pagan Unity Festival. I was a VIP and sat on a panel to discuss topics of Paganism on Thursday afternoon,” explained Heathen author and craftswoman Gypsey Teague in a message to The Wild Hunt.

“When my turn came I called out some of our female elders in the Pagan community for being sexist and exclusionary due to their philosophy of gender versus sex. I stated that it was insane to tie someone’s religious following to what does or doesn’t appear between your legs or in your genetic DNA. Unfortunately there are still some women out there that not only believe that but force it on their line and their ilk that follow her.”

After that event, Teague was interviewed by  the hosts of the Tree of Life Hour at Pagans Tonight Radio Network. As advertised, the two-part radio show was focused on the “transgender issues that are coming up again and again in our community and how we as a community should respond to folks who have a different gender expression than the binary male/female cisgender.”

Teague said, “By the end of the event it seemed like everyone was talking about transgender exclusion and how I was ‘pissed’ at the discussion; which was not true. What I believe is that if you tie your religion to a penis or a vagina you don’t deserve to be in the religion. We have too many examples of gender fluidity in our paths to still believe or accept this.”

Around that same time, author, musician, witch and Dianic priestess Ruth Barrett was launching an IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds for her new anthology titled Female Erasure. Barrett explained to The Wild Hunt, “Female Erasure is an anthology that celebrates female embodiment, while exposing the current trend of gender-identity politics as a continuation of female erasure as old as patriarchy itself […] Female erasure is being enacted through changing laws that have provided sex-based protections.” The unedited interview in its entirety is available here.

The IndieGoGo campaign was launched June 4 with a goal of raising $25,000 toward editing, design, legal and technical fees. After only eight days, the campaign has reached 50 percent of its goal. Barrett said, “Our contributors want radical societal change – freedom from oppressive gender roles, not from our sex. We want a world free of the so-called gender stereotypes of ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity.’ We want a world where the ideal of diversity is not abused to oppress and erase 51 percent of humanity. We want a world in which everyone’s biological reality is honored, our sacred bodies are celebrated, and where sex-based violence and enforced gender roles become obsolete.”

Despite Barrett being the editor, the anthology is not a Pagan-specific project. Its projected audience is far broader and most of its contributors do not fall under the Pagan, Heathen or polytheist umbrella. With that said, the project does include several Pagan voices, such as Ava Park and Luisah Teish, and essays that discuss the proposed issues from a Pagan perspective. One of Barrett’s own offerings is titled, “The Attack On Female Sovereign Space In Pagan Community.”

For Barrett, the project is linked to spirituality in that she has been “assisting women in the often painful process of coming into awareness about how male-centered cultural and religious views and institutions have been foundational in their very personal sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, and how patriarchal socialization powerfully influences their self-perception.”

While a few of the unpublished anthology’s essay titles evoke what some might consider a feminist spirit consistent with many Pagan practices, other titles raised immediate concerns, resulting in a fierce wave of backlash. Along with that spirit, there is also an expression of what is being called “transgender exclusion” and “transphobia.” In our interview, Barrett said that “transgender politics dismisses biological sex differences as irrelevant, while suppressing critical conceptual examinations of gender itself, ignoring the history of female class oppression, enforcement, male domination, sexual violence, personal suffering, and social and economic inequality.”

The first protest came in the way of a June 5 call-to-action blog post by activist and author David Salisbury. He wrote in part, “As a leader of the largest witchcraft tradition in Washington DC, I refuse to sit in silence. As an author and teacher of Goddess spirituality, I refuse to sit in silence. As a queer person, I refuse to sit in silence.” After Salisbury, the online, written protests only grew in number through both the blogosphere and social media, including posts from Peter Dybing, Vanessa Blackwood, Estara T’Shirai, Yvonne Aburrow, and Susan Harper.

After reading the funding campaign explanation and exploring the work of various authors, Pagan transgender activist and vice president of STRIVE Rev. Katherine A. Jones said, “I find it disheartening that so many women are so mired in a combination of transphobia and internalized misogyny that they are willing to blatantly attack their fellow women in the name of this exclusionary false feminism they have created […]The obsession with so called ‘biological sex’ is an indicator of women who see themselves as nothing more than vaginas. Just like the patriarchal men who oppress them. Unfortunately it seems to be common even within the Pagan community.”

Barrett said that she fully expected the backlash. When asked specifically about transgender exclusion and the erasure of the transgender identity within the scope of the book, she said, “While it is well-documented that physical and sexual violence against women and girls is on the rise globally, so-called progressives and the transgender lobbyists are acting to silence, disrupt, and legislate against our ability to name, gather and address the issues of our own oppression. This is female erasure.”

She added that the anthology addresses “concerns about a very profitable and growing transgender medical industry targeting well meaning parents, vulnerable children and adolescents, with no other options discussed other than transitioning that results in sterilization and a lifetime of dependence on pharmaceuticals and with no long-term studies of the health impact, are silenced. In this industry young lesbians and gay boys can be “normalized” by transitioning them. The possibility that homophobia is playing out in this issue seems to be too taboo to discuss.”

Arguably the most public outcry came from activist and writer Alley Valkyrie via Facebook.* On June 7, Valkyrie posted an “Open Letter to the Pagan Community,” which was shared over 250 times in that forum alone. The letter read in part, “As a pagan and a cis woman, I cannot and I will not remain silent on this matter, and I will not stand by in the face of violent targeting that is being enacted in my name.”

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Valkyrie clarified later that, while she does not support the anthology or Barrett’s work, her letter was actually aimed at attacks reportedly being launched at some of the bloggers who had previously spoken out against Barrett’s anthology. In the letter she said, “I also recognize that by posting this, I will also likely become a target.”

Shortly after the publication of her open letter, the post was removed along with other similar ones. Then she was locked out of her Facebook account for 24 hours. Other Pagans were reporting similar occurrences around that time. Valkyrie’s letter can be found in its entirety here.

Valkyrie and others have accused Barrett of being “complicit in this violence” due to her close association with those suspected of enacting what is being labeled as “doxing.” Barrett said she knows nothing of these attacks and hasn’t been following the online backlash.

But that is not where the story ends; it is where it gets more complicated. In her open letter, Valkyrie addressed Cherry Hill Seminary (CHS) due to its continued relationship with Barrett. The letter reads, “I am calling on Cherry Hill Seminary to publicly disassociate with Ruth Barrett immediately.”

Within twenty-four hours of hearing about letter, Barrett resigned saying, “I believe very strongly in the mission of Cherry Hill Seminary and their academic commitment to diversity in their faculty and the free exchange of ideas. Rather than let my participation endanger the future of Cherry Hill Seminary, it made the most sense for me to respectfully remove myself. While some doors have closed to me, I will continue to teach as I have been doing all along.”

In an interview CHS director Holli Emore told The Wild Hunt that Barrett tried to resign last fall when similar issues rose the surface, but the CHS governing board would not accept the resignation. Emore explained, “The work of a seminary is to prepare people to facilitate healing and build bridges. The work of higher education is to expose students to as many ideas as possible and to develop critical thinking skills.”

At the time, the seminary stood behind its commitment to academic freedom. However, Barrett did cancel her fall rituals course and, as has been revealed, hasn’t taught any class at CHS for four years even though she is listed as faculty.

This time around, the school accepted the resignation.

“Cherry Hill Seminary has never and would never condone violence against anyone and most certainly supports the full rights of transgender individuals,” said Emore. “The kind of attacks of unbridled animosity against Pagans on issues like this is indicative of a deeper need. It is clear to me that CHS is needed more than ever.”

CHS President Jeffrey Albaugh took to Facebook, saying, “Although I find the events disheartening and depressing, I keep returning to a single question: what do I have to offer that can aid in the process of resolution? The answers were simple. I can listen. I can enter into dialogue. We can have a discussion on the matter. This ability to enter into dialogue is, in my opinion, one of the hallmarks of leadership.”

Albaugh added that, since the issues came to light, nobody had reached out to him personally and that “demands have been posted on the Internet, strewn across Face Book and re-blogged ad infinitum.” He said, “No wonder this is off the rails. Everyone is shouting and no one is listening. So this, then, becomes my invitation. Contact me.”

While issues, reports of attacks, and conversations continued to circulate online, Witch and blogger Pat Mosley took a different approach to action in support of transgender rights. Like Barrett, Mosley is now spearheading an anthology project, but this one gives voice specifically to “Queer, Trans, and Intersex Witches.” The proposed book Arcane Perfection, was first imagined as a coven-based “zine” but, as Mosley explained, “recent events” have changed its direction.


“HB2 was probably the biggest one. We really snapped into this mindset of needing to be there for one another — a lot of us can’t be out to our families or at work, so our coven is really our sanctuary,” explained Mosley. “Hearing that a Pagan community leader was editing a new anthology which, in part, appears to be discussing trans civil rights as an attack on women’s rights inspired our decision too. Both of those things affect more than just our coven.”

Mosley went on to say that many “Queer, Trans, and Intersex people find power in Witchcraft” and that will hopefully serve as a point of solidarity “regardless of specific tradition, and regardless of the geographic distance between us.” Another objective, as Mosley described, is to address “the way Wiccans talk about gender.”

“We want to see that [discussion] evolve,” Mosley said, “Most Wiccans and other Pagans these days seem to want LGBT+ people to feel included. Often that looks like adapting a hetero-centric framework to accommodate other perspectives. Our intention with this zine and now the book is to have Queer, Trans, and Intersex people define and talk about Wicca, Paganism, Witchcraft, etc, rather than positioning cis/het Pagans as the owners of traditions with the authority to include or exclude us.” The deadline for Mosley’s new anthology is set at Aug. 1.

Neither Mosley’s or Barrett’s anthology have a set delivery date yet. However,  they are both in production and moving forward.

Returning to Barrett, in reaction to what has happened this week, she added, “Everyone is entitled to their sense of identity. What often goes unexamined at a deeper level is the contextual influences and cultural norms (including enforced gender stereotypes) that informs consciously or unconsciously how a person arrives at their identity. This is explored within the anthology in many ways. ”

The current debates, arguments and the reported attacks may not yet be over. Time will tell.

But the subject is certainly one that will persist, as it always has, into the future at both public gatherings, like PUF, and online through blogs and social media.

Looking over the entire situation from beginning to end, Emore said, “When respectful dialog is silenced by threats, we are all diminished.”

In a blog post, author Yvonne Aburrow offered a different type of community call-to-action, saying, “Gender essentialism and separatism is the mirror image of patriarchy. We reject the patriarchy and the kyriarchy. […] Let us magnify and glorify the images of divinity within ourselves and each other. Show forth love and beauty and creativity; celebrate the radiance of the many-hued multiplicity of gender expression, sexuality, and the human body.”

  *    *    *

* [Editorial Note: The Wild Hunt always aims for balanced news reporting. However, as a community-based source, there are times when our writers are affiliated, in some way, with aspects of a story. In those instances, we make a decision on how to ethically handle the story. Today’s article was such a case. Our managing editor currently teaches a class at Cherry Hill Seminary, and one of those quoted above is a Wild Hunt columnist. Our editorial team reviewed this article carefully to ensure a clear presentation of the issues.]

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108 thoughts on “Transgender inclusion debates re-ignite in Pagan community

  1. Pretty good review, yet there is no mention of the TERF community calling an activists family this week to “out” his sexual preference or their calling my work attempting to get me fired. It is this online bullying and violence that is a hallmark of the TERF community .

    • I’ve lost 4 facebook accounts due to TERF attacks led by Cathy Brennan. All because I said that MichFest was transphobic, and I wouldn’t ever go someplace that would turn away my sisters, just because they aren’t cisters.
      TERFs run wild in Pagan spaces, because they call it ‘reclaiming the goddess’ When in truth, gender is pretty darn fluid in Pagan stories, I point to all of India, and Loki specifically.

      • What really happens is they come out of the woodwork in the Pagan and LGBT communities when they think the *Christian Right* gives them an opening to spew the same old nonsense about how trans people are apparently dying in the streets and suffering all they do just cause they want into separatist coffee klatches cause the ‘patriarchy’ is all that worried about whether or not trans people are convenient to Second Wave feminist theories about ‘Gender Purity.’

        I’ll note of course that at all other times, where the Hel have they been about *real* struggles and community. Nowhere to be seen except bitching about how not being Vegan enough for them’s the worst thing ever.

        • Where the rubber hits the road on this issue, TERFS are really no different than the Christian Right as far as I’m concerned. They might as well build alliances with the Red State bathroom bill sponsors, because they are going to find fewer allies in the wider Pagan movement with each passing year.

      • So because you lied about MichFest, you’re gobsmacked that someone pushed back against you. MichFest never got into crotch-checking and trans people always attended. Especially transmen, who actually are female.

        Women have the right to set boundaries just like men do. If you can’t respect those boundaries then you’re the one in the wrong.

        You also need to learn the difference between gender and sex.

        • Michigan Fest did exclude transwomen in the 1980s. It may not have done so recently, but “never” is inaccurate.

        • “Especially transmen, who actually are female.”

          No, they’re not. They were assigned female at birth, but are in fact male.

          • So you are saying that biological sex is assigned, not immutable?

            So my cat just had kittens but if I assign “male” to her she will grow a penis, testes and start to produce sperm?

            And if I decide that my penis is female I can gain the ability to get pregnant simply by assigning female to my sperm producing body?

    • I hope that you can take legal action that stops them in their tracks. I am so sorry !

    • I don’t see them wishing you would get raped or telling you to die in a fire and I’ve seen those sentiments and worse expressed by transwomen against feminists. Also, TERF is a slur. Do you call black people the N word? If you think words are violence, you are NOT taking the high road. Explain why anyone should feel sorry for you. Especially when it’s MEN who are actually attacking and killing you.

      • Transgender women are women. And TERF is not a slur – it’s an acronym. “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist” is an entirely descriptive term – if you don’t like that people call you that in disgust, maybe you should consider moving away from positions that fit that label.

        • TERF is only ever used in a derogatory fashion by trans and their supporters. What bullshit you’re trying to convey.

        • It’s only used in a derogatory fashion in the same way that “white supremacist” is. When the speaker thinks there’s nothing laudable about the ideology, it’s going to be viewed negatively.

  2. I am sorry to say that I think Ruth Barrett crossed a line by specifically inviting Cathy Brennan to write for her anthology. Brennan is a particularly virulent TERF who attacks anyone online who opposes her.

    The TERFs are trying to erase trans identity and are prepared to attack cisgender and genderqueer allies of trans people. So it is particularly ridiculous that Barrett’s anthology claims that female identity is being erased.

    Thank you for quoting my piece which was an attempt at calling-in.

    Yvonne Aburrow

    • The idea that their denial of trans people is somehow *actually* the biggest problem to ‘female identity’ would be at best just looking for a target to take their failure to address other problems out on someone already-persecuted. They actually *are* authoritarians, these TERFs, just with an unrealistic idea of their own importance or potential in the real world.

      Probably why they’re so bitter.

      • Friday – thank you. Exactly my thoughts. But I’m not trying to minimize the damage Cathy has done. Sometimes the big fish in the little ponds can be very dangerous.

        • Especially when they have a bunch of radical fans and also a whole bunch of sock accounts.

          • And they’re able to shut down so many people on Facebook who aren’t threatening anyone or violating laws.

          • Yeah. Because girls in Saudi Arabia have their clits cut off and are raped by 60yo men in marriage because of their gender identity. Their biology has F all to do with it right?

          • The haters don’t understand more exists in the world than ‘either this or that.’ either.

        • Yes, the material reality is that trans women are female.

          If you mean that “has a vagina”, or “has XX chromosomes” instead of “female”, just say so. But keep in mind that you don’t know those details of most women you interact with and accept as women.

      • I know right. When trans women tell lesbians to suck their “girlcock” and the lesbian finds this to be offensive, she is clearly a hateful bigot.

        Good progressive women suck transcock when ordered to.

  3. Ruth’s usage of polysyllabic words doesn’t obfuscate her anti-trans agenda.

  4. How the heck do you write this report and not include Cathy Brennan at all? Her violent attacks, and the fact that Barrett unleashed them onto the Pagan community, is the main thrust of Alley Valkyrie’s letter in the first place. This is someone with a long and violent history of doxxing people, including an incident where she doxxed a teenager and then cheered when the teen said they were feeling suicidal. THAT is what CHS is enabling when it came to Barrett’s defense. This is pretty lousy reporting, imo.

  5. Difficult and emotional subject to cover, but it must be covered, as the problems building within our communities are far more dangerous to us then any problems coming from outside of it. Nor is is surprising that we see it happening, as we grow in size,the chance for conflict will increase even faster.

    On a small level, adding one person to a four person coven, does not increase the complexity internal politics and chance for conflict by a mere 25%, but in Exponentially of chances of conflict.

    As each of our various religions grow, the splintering continues to the point that we may in the future have little in common.We have already seen that developing as Paganism moved beyond appearing as just being Wicca [which in truth it never was just Wiccan] and noticeably dividing into different communities. Now as those communities are growing, the dividing continues within the communities, so that at some point even those sharing the same religion may have conflict of opinions, which has already happened.

    So it becomes even more important to talk out our differences and not pretend a level of unity that never quite existed in the past and may not even exist as much in the future, rather than pretend that everything is fine as was common in past pretense of unity.

    This has happened in all growing religions of the past and we are not special in that we are still human with all the same human problems of politics. So we too must deal with it and be honest wit ourselves and each other.

    • Basically, anyone who dares to challenge any part of trans ideology is a TERF. It’s meant to silence discussion, especially coming from natal females. One does not actually have to exclude trans people, or be a radical feminist to be a TERF. If one admits biological sex is a real thing, one is a TERF. If one does not agree that humans can actually change sex, one is a TERF. If one thinks that natal females are oppressed under patriarchy, for the material fact Of being female, one is a TERF. If one believes that lesbians are attracted to others of the female sex, and not to people with penises who say they are female, one is a TERF.

  6. You know, I’m not saying that somehow Pagan communities and rituals and the like can never be just-for-women-with-or-who’ve had functional reproductive gear etc, ….but it shouldn’t take asking the US government to try and destroy trans people’s actual lives to do it (Again) over some paranoia from the Seventies either.

    I’d actually question the competence as a priestess of anyone who thinks it *does.*

    • Drama drama drama. NO ONE is asking the government or anyone else to destroy trans individuals. What utter nonsense you spew!

      • Actually you’re not paying attention to the *politics* these TERFs support. Trying to come in and get Pagan religion to sanctify the *premises* of these oppressions and erasures is where there’s conflict there, also I think also some misguided protests by some trans people when the purpose of a ritual or group *does* have to do with various biology associated with ciswomen.

        Trying to say ‘People only come in these two categories’ usually means one is supposed to be superior to the other, but more importantly, is an excuse to oppress and exclude anyone who *doesn’t* sufficiently meet purity standards for either from most of the rights and privileges we take for granted.

        I say that there are also differences between cis and trans people, but it’s not honoring *those* either to start saying these must exclude them *everywhere* either.

  7. I don’t understand the issue. Need I say any thing after last nights shooting?

    • She participated in Donna Read’s “Goddess Remembered” film trilogy and addressed a CUUPS gathering circa 1990, so she at least has a history of Pagan-friendliness.

      • Yes, I know that. She works wih Orisha, who many mistake as gods/goddesses. But has Luisah Teish called herself Pagan? I don’t know.

  8. At least Cherry Hill leadership did the right thing on this issue…once the press of circumstances left them no other alternative or room to weasel the issue any further.

  9. I have been learning as of late that even the Pagan, Heathen, and polytheist communities are not resistant to this stuff as much as I thought. Its quite sad really and one of the reasons I have been withdrawing my participation. One can no longer be themselves in any way without causing trouble.

  10. Once again transgender “rights” in Paganism is becoming a hot button issue. The righteous left will not allow any discussion, any variation from “full inclusion” and cited the horrible tactics of the TERF crowd in doxing (yeah I had to look it up too) as justification of full on hatred towards mainly Goddess oriented women.

    I don’t want to post this, I dread doing so, I have PTSD over these issues but let me state clearly, every single tactic the TERFs are accused of using was invented by transgender activists and I was a victim of them.

    I was also raped and that rape mocked on websites still up to this day on the basis I was to ugly to rape. By transgenders

    I was beaten physically and my life threatened credibly repeatedly. By transgenders

    I was driven out of the home I founded to help newly transitioned transsexual women bootstrap their lives. By transgenders

    I was reported to Homeland Security as a terrorist and watched by the FBI for two weeks who followed me around and parked across the street during that time. By transgenders

    I was trashed all over the internet…….. I have been branded a TERF myself and a transphobe. By transgenders

    My crime? Pointing out the scientific evidence of the differences of transsexuality and what came to be known as transgenderism. Oh and correcting my physical body.

    I have been attacked viciously online by both sides and those articles are STILL up to this day, google me and see for yourself.

    Oh, btw I was also one of the most active trans civil rights activists of the mid to late nineties. I co founded the first grassroots US trans civil rights group and a bunch of local ones

    This shit makes me sick to my stomach and is triggering the hell out of me………..

    The hatred comes from BOTH sides and feeds the other.

  11. Females have the right to set boundaries and gather together without male incursion, no matter how that male identifies. Going ahead and pushing in when a woman has clearly told you “no” is not that far removed from rape and one wonders how any of you would behave in the bedroom.

    The Pagan community has been hostile to woman-identified and Goddess-identified women for decades. All sorts of smarmy bullshit from trying to discredit with “this is not historically accurate”, a really strange way to describe pre-literate cultures, to this genderist nonsense now. I have an old copy of the magazine Green Egg from the 1970s or 80s with a letter in it from former Church of All Worlds bard Gwydion Pendderwen DEFENDING Z. Budapest’s and other women’s rights to have their own rites without male incursion. That’s how far back this goes, minimum.

    All I can say is that if all you can do is treat women like shit when they won’t worship your almighty penis, that must mean you hate women, and if you hate women, LEAVE US ALONE. Let Dianic women do their own stuff LIKE THEY WANTED TO IN THE FIRST PLACE. There’s a Dianic tradition that accepts males, meaning they accept transwomen too, who are males (sex and gender are NOT THE SAME THING). Go join THEM. Leave the women-only groups alone. Stop trying to culturally rape women who have plainly stated they DO NOT WANT YOU among them.

    For fuck’s sake, Dianics don’t let in all WOMEN either–let’s say she’s a fundamentalist, homophobic Christian woman, why would they want her circling with them? It’s NOT just about YOU, “ladies”.

    And YES, they can still identify as Pagan. If a man in a wig and dress can declare himself a woman, a woman who wants to circle only with other biological females (and yes, there is such a thing and none of them have or have ever had penises) can call herself Pagan. Not everyone wants or gets to be a Gardnerian. Not everyone wants or gets to be a Druid. And not everyone wants or gets to be woman-only Dianic. Get over it.

    • In my experience, most trans women don’t really want to force their way into closed groups where they are clearly not wanted. But they do want to be part of the larger community, and they want to be recognized as women. Because shocker, they are.

      I have yet to see anyone say that trans- exclusionary Dianics shouldn’t be able to have their own spaces. Freedom of Association applies — what is at issue is that the community does not want our institutions & events supporting or subsidizing bigoted behavior. TERF Dianics can absolutely have their closed circles — but not as part of public events, and not supported by public institutions. You want to be a bigot, build your own infrastructure and stopping to coopt the greater Pagan community’s.

      • In my experience a large number of so called trans women really really DO want to force themselves on woman only Goddess groups. Seriously this is no different than me deciding I really like the Baptist church down the road and demand they change to worshipping the Goddess so I am personally comfortable there. I have witnessed countless “trans” women with penises pissing and moaning because lesbians won’t date them……. it never seems to occur to them that dick is a deal breaker if you are a lesbian, just the entitilement attitude that they were excluded. Dana has a valid point, why is it that only women are called out for gender bigotry and demands made they leave the Pagan community when there is no shortage of gynophobic, sexist and ageist male Pagan leaders NEVER taken to task for that??????

        • In response to your last point, gendered misbehavior by male Pagans has been dealt with on The Wild Hunt, and has generated its own comment-storms.

      • It seems to me, IIRC, that historically some Dianics were able to run workshops for women-born-women at larger events such as PCon, no? Maybe I’m misremembering.

        • You’re remembering most of it. A ciswomen-only event at PantheaCon was offered as the women’s activity, along with a male-only event, and transwomen were left out in the cold. Again, it evoked a comment-storm on TWH.

      • BTW when were you appointed the gatekeeper of Paganism? Apparently despite being a practicing Pagan myself for more than 50 years, they skipped giving me the memo…..

      • As to your last paragraph – is that what they’re saying? I don’t think so.

        Why not, in the privacy of their own circles, allow women’s blood mysteries to be part of their spiritual focus, and include only those who’ve experienced those mysteries, and still be considered part of the larger community? Is it due to their beliefs/practices, or their attitude about them?

        If it’s a belief and practice that only includes a segment of the population, does that mean they’re not part of the larger community?

    • “Females have the right to set boundaries and gather together without male incursion, no matter how that male identifies.”

      Yes, any group can do that. But if that means excluding trans women because you consider them “male”, that’s transphobic. So it’s no surprise that people react as such to your actions.

      • Is she saying that the members of the group are the ones who get to categorize as male or female those who wish to join?

        • I think she’s saying that trans women are “male”, and therefore it’s reasonable for women-only groups to exclude them. Those groups are certainly free to do that (both categorizing and excluding – similarly, a white nationalist group is free to decide who’s white), but that doesn’t make it not transphobic.

          • and you just equated Dianics with white supremists AND called them transphobic. Any wonder discussion is impossible? Do you have a trans history? I do and somehow I can have discussions with Z and Julie Bindle and other evil transphobes but then I don’t call them names.

          • Male and female are biological categories, and humans beings cannot transition from one to the other. Gender is culturally imposed. There is nothing inaccurate in saying transwomen are male. In fact, it’s erasing trans women and completely transphobic to say otherwise. But I know you all aren’t into facts, or logic.

          • So in the spirit of maintaining the integrity of these “biological categories”, I think it’s only fair that Ruth Barrett and all of her like minded sisters undergo a complete medical evaluation to prove their credentials as “real women”, with the results made public to the wider community. We’ll need a full karyotype, hormone profiles, MRI if need be, the works. If any of them come up with any XY mosaicism or elevated androgen levels or any gender ambiguous features of any kind, they will, naturally, have to resign their positions and admit that they are really just “dudes in a dress”

      • In order to actually have a ‘trans-phobia’ you have to do much more than just disagree with someone over their self-identified gender. Your disagreement has to be hostile or based on irrational fear. But, there’s no reason to assume from the get go that anyone who disagrees with transgenderism is doing so out of hostility or irrational fear, and the assumption itself generates prejudice and discrimination. Just say you’re skeptical of or have reservations about transgenderism nowadays and you get words like “bigot” or “hate-speech” thrown at you, quite regardless of whether you’ve done or said anything even remotely warranting it. It’s unbelievable.

        • When someone denies the existence of transgender people, it’s a denial of a core part of their human identity, and there’s pretty much no way for that not to be hostile. Transphobia is, so far as I have seen, always grounded in irrational fear, whether in Christian or Pagan circles. The usual fear-based assertion is that “they”, meaning transgender people are not really what they know themselves to be, they’re living some delusion or lark and pressing their equality claims for the sole express purpose of “intruding” in women’s space or for undermining good red-blooded Christian family structure.

          • I rarely see hostility enter the picture until someone starts getting called hateful or bigoted or associated with ignorant zealots. In my experience, it’s the pro-trans crowd that’s hostile and lashes out based on irrational fear. But, I’d never generalize from my experience because that’s textbook sampling bias. How so? The most loud and unpleasantly memorable folks do not represent those who would rather avoid the fighting and getting their character assassinated.

            Experiences vary, as ours attest, but what we can say invariably is that labeling as transphobic anyone who disagrees with transgender ideology is unfair, uncharitable and without any basis in reason.

          • But a big part of the problem, it seems to me, is that it’s not just a question of accepting the existence of transgender people, but of taking that a couple of big steps beyond to also insist that people agree (for instance) that a transgender woman is a woman in every sense of what that word has meant over the course of history, and to insist that transgender women be included in every setting that other women have access to. To say that being unwilling to take those last two steps is transphobia, and that transphobia is always grounded in fear, seems very simplistic to me. I’m sure that’s true for some people, but for many more of us it’s not at all a question of fear, but of what our life experience has taught us. If you tell me that somebody who was born with a penis (for example) is a woman in the same way that I experience myself as a woman, or that I experience the other women in my life, your words simply won’t make sense because none of us have ever had penises. I don’t feel afraid of that transgendered person, or threatened, or revolted, but neither do I feel that person is a woman like me, which is what I do feel about the other women in my life. It’s simply my experience of reality, and I would think most other women all over the world would tell you the same thing.

  12. And let me add, and I hope this is crystal clear, that just because Dianics don’t want you circling with them DOES NOT MEAN they don’t want you in any other Pagan group either. Contrast this with the way transactivists and their allies and handmaids want to kick woman-only Dianics out of the Pagan community. You are all some shitty, shitty people and the sad part is they’re not even the ones harming and killing transwomen, MEN are doing that, and where’s your outrage against and trolling of MEN on this issue? For fuck’s sake.

    • I’ve been curious to know if this is an issue within male pagan, witch and heathen circles. Do they welcome transmen, and/or have their been problems?

      Also, are transfolk creating their own traditions and circles?

      • Mysogyny and gynophobia are actually rampant in the Pagan communities if you have eyes to see it so this is a woman issue. And no, transfolk for the most part want to appropriate other traditions and not do the work to make their own.

        • That doesn’t answer my questions about the men’s groups, but thank you for responding. I’m terribly sorry for the hell that you’ve been through.

          • I have been following this issue closely for a long time, and I can say that I have not yet heard of a men’s group turning away transmen. It may be that there simply haven’t been many transmen who have sought to join these groups. On the other hand, I can’t picture any men’s groups demanding to inspect the junk of prospective members to see if they’re “man enough”.

            As I have said before, I would welcome the addition of a transman to any men’s mysteries group I happen to facilitate or participate in. We work as men to figure out what it means, or should mean, to be a man in the world and in our religions in a way that is healthy and whole and compliments who and what we are. I cannot imagine a more powerful learning opportunity than a brother who survived a lifelong fight with his own biology and all of society simply to claim his identity among us.

          • Your last sentence demonstrates that spirit is more important than flesh–with which I agree. Your aims sound practical as well as spiritual.

            I missed another one: why do guys call their privates ‘junk’? It suggests to me a rather unhealthy and morbid view of oneself.

            Antique slang–I’m right there. Modern slang? I’m lost.

          • I think modern slang. It’s not a term I use much in real life, but it came to fit somehow in the context of this issue. A few years ago when this all blew up at PantheaCon, the organizers of the trans-exclusive ritual basically made it mandatory that participants be skyclad. The rationale was some high and mighty sounding business about metaphysical reasons why it had to be nude, but really it was junk check. The term and the intent of the inspection were compatibly crude.

          • I agree.
            I know it’s pop culture slang, but I really have to wonder about the self-respect of the person who coined it, and the people who use it.

            I don’t call my genitals koochie (kuchi is ethnic jewelry used by Tribal Style belly-dancers), because that’s what what Xavier Cugat’s last wife, Charro, was always saying in triple. I don’t use hoo-ha because it’s damned juvenile, and I’m a crone who doesn’t care about what shocks the young when it comes from their elders.

          • I agree in that pretty much all euphemisms for sex and sexuality at best are rooted in immature and unhealthy conceptualizations.

          • So it’s safe to say that transmen aren’t as likely to be drawn to paganism, and/or pagan men’s groups, as trans women are?

          • I don’t know that it’s safe to say anything about transmen within Paganism. I’ve seen no data or systematic study and I don’t even have enough anecdotal experience to make an intelligent conjecture about large scale trends. I don’t think regular men’s groups are even a terribly common phenomenon within Paganism.

            I can imagine that a transman who happens to be Pagan might be about as interested in men’s mystery work as cis-men, or perhaps even more so. I don’t know how many have found themselves in that position. It’s possible they may have been refused participation by a men’s group, but I have not heard of such an occurrence. I can say I have not heard of any significant resistance to transmen in men’s Pagan groups, but maybe the issue just has not been tested enough to know.

            I can tell you that one men’s group in my area, Chicago, seems to welcome transmen. The Brotherhood of the Phoenix, with which I have a passing acquaintance describes itself as “A neo-pagan order for Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender men who love men.”

  13. One question I’ve never seen addressed in any way that gave me a sense of understanding is why, whenever the Pagan community discusses trans issues, from any perspective, we generate so much heat and so little light.

    I do not understand why on this one issue, we seem unable to speak to one another without shouting.

    • because an actual discussion is not allowed…….. try it and you are labelled a bigot or transphobe or TERF or what have you……… at least every time I attempt it and I was a first tier transactivist in the 90’s and was fucking born intersexed myself

    • There’s no progress because there can’t be meaningful compromise when some people refuse to respect others and treat them with dignity.

      There can be meaningful discussion about how to accommodate trans people, and how to acknowledge their experiences. But there can’t be any meaningful discussion when some people insist that some men are really women, or vice versa (along with, presumably, denying the identities of non-binary people).

    • I’ve heard and read a fair amount of discussion. It was also discussion – the panel discussion – that partially created the gist of this very article we are discussing. I’ve seen a good amount of change in the community. The good amount of change isn’t all good as such, but I do see a lot of support for transfolk, a lot of shaming and marginalizing of women considered TERFs, and unfortunately, a lot of policing of language.

    • Just to be clear–because there’s probably a need to be:
      I 100% believe that trans women are women. (Not that they need my vote of confidence, but it’s there.)

      I also believe that Ruth Barrett’s thesis, that the trans rights movement is about the erasure of women, is flat wrong. And my comment above was not calling out the coverage here at the Wild Hunt, which I think was pretty level-headed and helpful.

      Instead, I’m reacting to conversations in social media, in comments especially on Facebook and elsewhere, where questioning the links between the pieces in this story can line you up in the crosshairs.

      There are voices being raised in favor of boycotting or taking strong action against Cherry Hill Seminary for not having fired Ruth Barrett, a faculty member who had not taught in four years, because her anthology has a chapter by Cathy Brennan, who has harassed and doxxed Pagans who have spoken out against the book.

      Is including someone’s work in your anthology enough of a link to be confident that you engage in the same destructive behaviors that they do, or even approve of them? (Because John Halstead published two of my essays in his anthology, does that mean that he’s responsible for my unpublished opinions and actions, too?)

      For sure, if Cathy Brennan were on staff at CHS, and they did not act swiftly around her history of doxxing and harassing those who disagree with her, I’d see that as pretty offensive. And if Ruth Barrett has engaged in such behavior, AND Cherry Hill has been made aware of it, then that’s a big problem, too.

      There have been innuendoes that Ruth Barrett has done more than compile a bad book.

      But according to CHS President Jeffrey Albaugh, he hasn’t been given that information clearly and directly. In fact, not much information has been given the board clearly and directly, if we can believe their statements.

      I’m not here to accuse anyone of being deceptive. But without more public information linking Ruth Barrett to doxxing and harassing than her having published an essay by a woman who is doing so, I’m seeing people ready to call me, at least, evil and transphobic based on my questioning whether it makes sense to go after CHS with scythes and pitchforks just yet.

      When asking clarifying questions means you’re seen as evil and a bigot, it seems to me there’s a flaw in how we’re reaching our consensus as a community.

      I really think we can slow down, when communal resources and people’s reputations are on the line. Not to do so isn’t all that much better than engaging in doxxing ourselves.

    • This phenomenon is in no way unique to the Pagan community or trans issues. In all serious debates of human and civil rights, there comes a time when the issue generates much more heat than light and is ultimately settled that way. This can be aggravated by rhetoric that is ill chosen and needlessly inflammatory, but it cannot be avoided for the reason that there simply is no middle ground in the key underlying issue. In every struggle, there is a core claim to justice which is pressed both through hearts-and-minds persuasion and through force (which includes lawful protest, boycotts, and social marginalization).

      That core claim either achieves unconditional recognition, or it fails utterly. There is no such thing as a half-quantity of justice. This has been true in every social justice question in our history. The core claim always boils down to a demand by people to be who they are in the world on equal footing with everyone else. That was the case with racial civil rights. It was (and still is), the claim for gays and lesbians, and for Pagans as a religious minority. Transgender folk are demanding nothing more (and nothing less) radical than all other groups.

      Laying aside, for the moment, all of the cross accusations of who has “doxxed” who, who is the biggest meanie, etc., we have two basic sides to this issue. You either believe that trans men and women are real, and struggling to live a gender which is different than what was physically assigned to them, and that they have rights of full standing as their lived gender, or you do not. There is no amount of diplomacy or statesmanship or communal love vibe that is going to bridge that chasm or form some sort of meaningful compromise where there can be none. Sometimes we cannot “all just get along.” This is not an aberration of modern Internet culture. The stories of our own gods and ancestors going back forever demonstrate the reality of irreconcilable conflict.

      The problem with Cherry Hill, as I have seen it, is not that they failed to immediately cave and fire Ruth Barrett. The problem was the refusal of leadership to engage the issue and their dismissive attitude of legitimate concern around the issue. At no point in the original dust up did seminary leadership ever make an unconditional statement in support of transgender students and community members. At least not that I was able to find.

      The whole issue was dismissed with the implication that the community just didn’t “get it” about academic freedom. They did not so much as parrot back the unambiguous language of the seminary’s own non-discrimination policy. This to me illustrated either leadership’s complete inability to grasp the issue or, (more likely I think), an unwillingness to ruffle any feathers among TERF supporters or to take on controversy of any kind. I hope I’m wrong, but it doesn’t feel in my gut like they have come to any deeper appreciation of the issue even now. The subtext seems to be “we accepted the resignation, but only because people are irrationally angry about it.” It’s too bad nobody personally wrote President Albaugh, but I also believe a man of his education and intelligence could have worked out the dimensions of the issue without a personal briefing.

      I don’t know that boycotting Cherry Hill is a necessary or worthwhile response, but I also do not presently have a great deal of confidence in the institution as a center of excellence in either critical thinking or the formation of pastoral leadership for the Pagan community of the future. I am willing, and indeed hopeful, to have my mind changed on that point. I am more than willing to avoid personal invective on this issue (it’s really not about Ruth Barrett or Cathy Brennan). But I will never douse or tone down the fire in my belly for the core claim of transgender justice, and I will never accept bigotry as an equally valid truth for the sake of coming to “consensus.”

      • I think it’s diagnostic, that when I suggest we Pagans rush to judgement when a conflict involves trans rights, you respond as if I were asking you to douse your fire for justice or to “accept bigotry as an equally valid truth.”

        When we discuss the trans rights movement–a movement, and clearly, I’ve gotta say it again for the people in the back–which I fully support, we Pagans fall into a habit of assuming that making sure we’ve selected the right targets for our collective anger is tantamount to accepting injustice.

        I’m seeing calls from some quarters to try to shut shut Cherry Hill down down, and I’ve personally been called “evil” and an anti-trans “bigot” for asking to have gaps in the evidence and logic filled before we act. The only clear connection between Cathy Brennan and Ruth Barrett that has made it into the public discussion is the fact that Ruth invited Cathy to contribute a chapter to her book. And the connection between Cherry Hill Seminary and Cathy Brennan is still weaker–but by saying so, I’ve been labeled as bigoted against trans. Hell, I saw a trans woman labeled that way in one discussion, by a cis ally!

        THAT is what I mean by our needing to stop and generate more light and less heat.

        I’m not trying to put out anyone’s fire for justice. I just want to be sure our flamethrowers are scorching the right individuals.

        I’m not convinced that scorched earth and total war are what it takes to advocate for equality.

  14. STILL no mention of Brennan, no correction of this article to include this focus of contention, a day later. Wild Hunt, what gives? Alley Valkyrie, in particular, has been clear that it’s not just the anthology. Pagan activists’ facebooks are being silenced through targeted gaming of the reporting algorithm. Someone called Peter Dybing’s *job* with scurrilous nonsense. Someone called an activist’s family trying to out them. And yet this remains beneath your editorial notice. I find this disappointing and more than a little infuriating. PLEASE REACH OUT TO THE AFFECTED AND CORRECT YOUR RECORD.

    • That sounds like it would make a good article itself. I hope they follow up on these terrible happenings!

  15. I met Ruth Barrett in the 70’s, when she and Cyntia Smith were primarily musicians. I liked her music, knew she was Dianic. At that time, I had not met any trans folk, and only knew of Christine Jorgenson, and a few in Olympic level sports.

    In the late 90’s, I met my first transgender friend, sister of another friend. Not being an examiner of throats, I didn’t see anything to tell me she wasn’t a cis-woman.

    I seem to recall someone commenting, but cannot find it, that they dislike the “invented word” cis. May I just say cis-Alpine Italy, and get it over with?

    T and I became close friends. Early on, I asked her why she would choose to transition to female, given the privilege she would lose at work and in general life. When she said, I’ll die if I don’t, I understood that it was a bone-deep need, and saw no reason to ask any further. She’d been feeling female most of her life, in a male body.

    While transwomen have likely never experienced the “Blood mysteries”, they have experienced their own unique mystery, that no one untransitioned to any extent can know. A transwomen faces the same discrimination and misogyny cis-women face, and they face hatred, phobia, and the like, as well, because of the transition, and the general public’s inability to handle their reality. Same goes for lesbians and intersex persons presenting primarily as female.

    I used to respect Ruth Barrett, but I have a problem with the belief she espouses about the trans community. What about hermaphrodites and intersex persons presenting primarily as female? I’ve never heard anything about that.

    Perhaps there should be TIQ+ rituals at festivals to explore those Mysteries with others who share them.

    • What about those born hermaphrodites? You read my linked below blog entry because that is where you saw the cis comment yet somehow missed I was born a hermaphrodite? I transitioned to woman, not “trans woman” and the whole damn cis thing set women up as an oppositional class to trans whatever……….. you cannot be that you define yourself out of……… simple logic.

      • You’re right, I missed that, and I apologize. Before you chose your gender, did you encounter much in the way of problems, from medical staff or others? Did you feel externally pressured to “choose one identity”?

        As to definitions, an earlier example is declaring people of Class X degenerate because they aren’t married, while not allowing them to get married.

        • I have no intention of discussing very private matters in a public forum. I made that mistake years ago but I will say one CANNOT “choose” your gender, it is hardwired neurologically before you are born as male, female or neither. That is a now well established scientific fact with some 800+ valid studies to back it.

      • So under NC’s bathroom laws, would you be denied using a bathroom at all? It’s such a stupid law. I guess the ghost of Jesse Helms is still kicking up hate.

        BTW, while not PHP businesses, shortly after that stupid law was passed, I got emails from presidents of two companies, and Replacements, asking for my acceptance of them and their families, who wouldn’t fit 1950’s whitebread definition of family. Replacements is run by a gay couple, and are based in NC. They wanted to make sure clients knew everyone was welcome to be comfortable at their locations. are crazy people with good products, about which I will not write further.

  16. I’ve delayed ordered Ruth’s book, but reading this crap here now, I’ve got my order in. Well done Ruth Barrett, you have integrity and grit to get truth out there.

  17. I will also caution those accusing Cathy Brennan of doxxing. It’s well known to most of us who does the doxxing, ie trans and their allies. Wake up people. There are trans individuals, however they ARE NOT the opposite sex of what they were born, impossible. They deserve respect, ability to be housed and have meaningful work, but NOT at my and other women’s expense.

    Male trans are now allowed to complete in women/girl sports and it’s already been seen how they are not on the level playing field, they DO have an advantage and are taking positions away from natal girls and women.

    The problem is the incursion into every nook and cranny of female safe spaces. Single stall washrooms are not good enough, no they must be allowed into women’s washrooms because that act is where “woman validation” is obtained.

    The war on women is alive and well in the trans community.

    • “Single stall washrooms are not good enough, no they must be allowed into women’s washrooms…”

      Isn’t it just infuriating when minorities won’t accept Separate but Equal for the more-than-fair offer that it is? 😉

      • Y’know, I like single stall washrooms. I have absolutely no problem using them. Stop trying to obfuscate.

        • I’m afraid you’re the one who’s obfuscating here. “I will also caution those accusing Cathy Brennan of doxxing”… because transwomen use women’s bathrooms?

          Please. Get a grip.

      • A lot of places I visit have only one restroom, or two at the most. How about they don’t get labelled by gender–there are a few they’ll leave out, not realizing they exist–and just put Restroom or Lavatory on all the doors to which that applies. Label which ones work with mobility issues or family needs. Put changing platforms in every one, because it’s not just mothers who are changing diapers anymore.

        And if you’re putting in a specifically handicapped restroom, think about the companion who has to maneuver the chair and make enough space!

  18. Some of this controversy reminds me of when some alleged and well-meaning feminists in the 70’s and 80’s decided that porn and erotica (before romantica, and I’m not speaking of the rose genre) were just other means of oppressing women. I don’t think they understood or recognized the concept of “sex-positive” porn or erotica: most women who did came to feel better about their sexuality.

    What we had was women, instead of men, telling us what we could and could not find sexually stimulating. Tell that to a female top, and see how long it takes to backpeddle. I did have some years of confusion over what I felt, and what my urges were, and what I was told was bad for me and misguided.

    The process in both situations seem oddly parallel.

    • There is still some of that attitude within feminism as evidenced by the controversy around 50 Shades of Grey, although there is a much more layered and diverse range of attitudes toward porn these days. The process to which you refer has happened in the feminist movement, but really it’s a dynamic which comes into play in any revolutionary movement. The elite of any such movement, the founders, the intellectuals very often conclude that the rank and file don’t have the agency and information to know what’s best for themselves. Accordingly, they need to be chaperoned and led by the nose toward enlightenment by the vanguard of the movement for some indeterminate time until they demonstrate their readiness (usually by coming to agreement with the vanguard).

      • and when one discovers that the leaders feel this way about you, life can get Interesting.

        SoG was just too pat for me–been there, done that, without the preaching. I remember the reaction to the other women in my department at the uni library when I found The Story of O there, and brought it in after reading it. I’d had no idea what I was getting into! There were some mightily uncomfortable staff.