Numinous and Concrete
Duality and Diversity: Gender at Pantheacon
The next day, I taught "Battle Goddess: Self-Defense and General Kickassery" with my lovely assistant, Robert. One thing really struck me about gender in that class, and that was this: my examples included gay bashing and Westboro Baptist. That is where I go: anti-queer violence. It took two ciswomen in the crowd to bring up anti-rape techniques and women's defense. I was floored by this, because, despite being biologically female, those examples never even crossed my mind. Gender? I'm a woman, but neither cis nor trans, really. Neither is one of my primary partners. We are just denizens of what the '90s would have called Queer Nation.
So I'm back to my concerns in Charlie's class: what do masculine and feminine mean, anyway? We inhabit these physical bodies that express one thing, sort of, and we both love and are attracted to women and men, cis and trans. Look at each of us in a certain light, and in certain clothing, and we look one way. On a different day, something else might appear. So, Z might not consider me to be a masculine woman, but my subconscious doesn't think of myself as exactly female either. My non-gendered identity is a bit George Sand and Oscar Wilde. In other words, call me a Dandy. And what song was a hallmark of my youth? The gay male techno-ballad "Smalltown Boy" by Bronski Beat. Of course, Jimmy Sommerville isn't very masculine, either. But I digress.
The Con went on, bringing us to Sunday night, and the Morrigan devotional ritual: "Call of the Battle Raven." Several people approached me after classes or in the hallways to ask if the ritual was open to all. One woman wanted to make sure she did not need a pre-existing, highly personal relationship with the Morrigan. The other inquiries came from men. I assured all of them that the ritual was open to whoever felt called to come. The last inquiry came while I was almost at the ritual itself. A man asked if the ritual was "female only." I looked him in the eye and said, "I am not female only, and neither is this ritual!"
Monday morning, I was relating this, which I thought was just a funny little story, to a couple of Dianic Witches whom I honor and respect. Then it came out: people were asking me about the Morrigan ritual being open because of what transpired Saturday night. There had just been a meeting, which I'd seen fliers for, about "Gender Discrimination at PantheaCon." Many things have already been written about this topic. I will try not to rehash too much of what my brothers and sisters have already said. Ruth Barrett, whose work, like Z Budapest's, was so important to my teenage spiritual formation, related some of her experiences at the meeting, which she attended, despite having nothing to do with the ritual in question. I will leave it to her to tell the tale. Trying to have an important, nuanced conversation as the vending area was starting to close shop, left too much in the "we need to talk more" realm. What I want to say is this: her response was strong, and heartfelt, and respectful. I do believe she is trying to walk her talk, whether I understand her fully or not. She is a woman whose legacy I respect.
Ruth Barrett, Wendy Griffin, and other Dianics work a lot with women's blood mysteries and uterine magic. Despite being in their book, a "woman born woman," there is no way in which I relate to this, nor have I ever, even having tried valiantly, albeit briefly, in a women's coven in my early 20s. My menarche was a cause of anger because it made me late to a theater audition. It never made me feel more in touch with the moon and tides. Yeah. I'm queer like that. Polarity as a binary reality makes no sense to me theologically or literally.
T. Thorn Coyle is an internationally respected visionary and teacher of the magical and esoteric arts. The author of Make Magic of Your Life, Kissing the Limitless, and Evolutionary Witchcraft, she hosts the Elemental Castings podcast series, writes the blog Know Thyself, and has produced several CDs of sacred music. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook!