Update: Gender, Transgender, Religious Rites, and Inclusion

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.

Statement from CAYA Coven on Rite of Lilith at PantheaCon

Lady Yeshe Rabbit, High Priestess of CAYA Coven, and the clergy of Come As You Are Coven, have issued a statement on the Amazon Priestess Tribe’s Rite of Lilith at PantheaCon 2011. This ritual served as the catalyst for the current ongoing discussions regarding gender, inclusion, and religious freedom. “The Clergy of Come As You Are Coven wish to address the recent events and conversations regarding gender discrimination and the Amazon Priestess Tribe’s Rite of Lilith at PantheaCon 2011. It is our intention that this statement will a) open an inclusive, compassionate and respectful dialogue, b) shed light on some points that require clarity due to miscommunication, lack of communication, and misinterpretation, and c) help heal any deliberate or inadvertent pain caused by anyone along the spectrum of this emotionally-charged matter. Please accept the following offerings as an invitation to share in conversation as well as mutual understanding with us.”

Transgender Inclusion Issue Intensifies

On Sunday I had very briefly mentioned a story regarding a Lilith ritual at PantheaCon in which transgendered women were turned away, and a subsequent discussion between Dianic Goddess worshipers and transgender advocates over the exclusion. I initially linked to a run-down of the issues, discussions, and conflicts from the perspective of Artifex Mentis (Sarah Thompson) a Witch and Ceremonial Magician who identifies as a transsexual woman. This resulted in quite a bit of intense discussion on my blog (which is now collected in a PDF file until I can get those comments properly restored) from a variety of perspectives. Initially, I was going to wait for the the Bay Area PNC bureau’s forthcoming coverage before adding my own, but since my post on Sunday the discussion has spread throughout the Internet, and has included some incendiary commentary from a prominent Pagan elder. First, let’s run down some of the essays, discussions, and opinions that are currently taking place around this issue.

Pagan Community Notes: PaganDASH Campaign, Post-PantheaCon Stories, Cherry Hill Seminary, and more!

Pagan Community Notes is a companion to my usual Pagan News of Note, a series more focused on news originating from within the Pagan community. I want to reinforce the idea that what happens to and within our organizations, groups, and events is news, and news-worthy. My hope is that more individuals, especially those working within Pagan organizations, get into the habit of sharing their news with the world. So lets get started! Counting Pagans in the UK: In one month, the 2011 British census will begin.