Numinous and Concrete
Duality and Diversity: Gender at Pantheacon
We are all connected, not separated out. Duality—the division for love's sake—is a teaching tool, a construct, a helpful way to think about things sometimes, a lot of fun at other times, and a stumbling block in still others. It does not reflect the deeper reality that I, as a Pagan mystic, touch in all the times I remember myself. When I remember myself, I remember the world, and the world is whole.
One facet of this conversation that could use an entire article is the idea of privilege. People who have been oppressed in the past, and are oppressed still in various ways, often have trouble realizing that they are now operating from a place of privilege, however tenuous that feels. Ciswomen sometimes feel that women who started life as biological males have male privilege ingrained into them. Though in some cases male enculturation may be true, in many other cases, the trans people I know were such maligned misfits in their early years that they got very little use out of any purported privilege. And now? How many women's only spaces are afforded to transwomen? How much opportunity is there for them to revel in their femaleness with other females? To answer Z Budapest's recent reprehensible comments to this linked blog, to have fought to be female, down to changing one's identity and one's body in order to be better seen as a woman, does indeed make one a woman in my book. At least as much of a woman as I, who regardless of my gender identity, would be welcomed into "woman born woman only" space.
In Kissing the Limitless, I write about the Divine Twins, born of the Cosmic Zero that is God Herself. They struggle against one another, wrestling, filled with life, one polarity seeking dominance over the other. Finally, the struggle turns to embrace. They kiss. These Twins make love, and together form something entirely new. Many magical systems call this figure the Divine Androgyne. It is my belief and experience that, polarized as some of us may be or feel, we all have that androgyne as potential within ourselves. The Mystery is thus: we can all birth something heretofore unknown.
But theologically there is more, and I apologize for it taking me so long to frame this point: from the Void, from the Stillness, from the All, stems multiplicity. I often preach that the cosmosphere, like a biosphere, needs diversity to remain healthy. Therefore, homogeneity should not be our goal. It should be clear by now that I have no interest in attending these rituals, and might even have trouble with some of their tenets, but I am not attacking the Dianics who want ciswomen only space within a larger, welcoming whole. I want there to be room among us for Gay Male Mysteries, for Women's Moon Blood rituals, Heterosexual Basket Weaving, Queer Gods rites, Heathen Blots, and our scholarly talks, workshops, and concerts. I want to walk the groves and halls with Thelemites, Heathens, Dianics, Hermeticists, and Wiccans and be able to share space even while sometimes vehemently disagreeing. This sort of interaction makes us stronger. We are not all the same, but in order to make a viable movement, and to grow as humans, we need interchange. We need to work together, even when we sometimes ask for separate space. That said, I do wonder what I would be feeling if this issue was about a different construct: race, rather than gender.
You see, the larger, welcoming whole is important. We need to interact from a base of respect. We need to be clear what our boundaries and beliefs are and why. And there needs to be a place for us all. It was not clear from the description of the ritual in question that only cisgendered women were welcome. This was the cause of much pain. I hope that we treat each other with honor and present our intentions with greater clarity in the future, as CAYA has pledged to do. We need to work together, and therefore, cannot afford to hold too many assumptions. Should a public event like PantheaCon host any exclusive rites? That is still up for debate.
Let us 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.
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!