Overview of the PantheaCon Gender Debate

The discussion over the “Genetic women only” ritual by Z Budapest at PantheaCon is in full swing across the blogosphere, discussion groups, and in face to face conversations. Although I hesitate jumping into what is clearly an emotional and highly charged discussion, I’m hopeful that these observations may help move the discussion in a more productive direction.

There are several different positions people are articulating that range from very narrow in focus to much more global in nature. I have read very clear statements of these positions followed immediately by comments that say they either disagree or agree with the statement but talk about an entirely different issue altogether. It appears we are trying to have one conversation about a series of related topics and the upshot is we are all talking past one another. I’ll list the various topics from more narrow to more global.

Topic 1: Are transgender women women? (Same with transgender men) This is the most emotionally charged topic in relation to the wider discussions. This also seems to have the most consensus as most Pagan, Heathens, and polytheists have said transgender women are women. There is a minority who disagree. There is no survey or poll to back this up, just what can be seen from comments.

Topic 2: Should persons with views such as the ones Z Budapest is said to hold be invited to lead rituals or workshops at conventions or festivals? Similar topic – should PantheaCon have invited Z Budapest after the comments she allegedly made after last year’s PantheaCon? There are many Pagan elders who hold controversial views on topics. Some are, or may appear to be racist, bigoted, illegal, etc. Should an elder who advocates illegal drug use for spiritual work be invited to teach a workshop?

T Thorn Coyle states, “What I feel is “in error” is not the holding of a Dianic ritual for cis-women only. It is not that this ritual occurred at Pantheacon. It was that — after the events, pain, and discussions of the last year, with so many of us doing our level best to learn from one another — we had this ritual led by a public figure who has made hateful comments which she had not retracted, or even apologized for. This statement actually covers Topic 2 and 3.

Topic 3: Can there be CisGender only rituals at Cons and festivals? David Salisbury calls for a boycott until PatheaCon adopts an inclusive policy that reads, “…that acknowledges transgender individuals as the gender they identify as. This includes forbidding ritual that is cisgender-only.”

Editor’s Note: David Salisbury has recalled the boycott. You can read more about that on his blog.

Lupa says, “I have absolutely no problem with cis-women-only rituals. What I have a problem with is when a ritual that is purported to be for “all women” or, in the case of Z’s ritual, “the beauty and grace of the feminine form in all of her infinite variety”, is limited to cis women only. This exclusion of trans women from rituals stated to be for ALL women invalidates trans women’s identities AS WOMEN.”

Topic 4: Should all rituals and workshops at conferences and be open to all attendees? This idea is brought up mostly in the comments sections of blogs, but it’s one that seem to resonate with some people. Mrs. B summed it up with this comment, “… people who pay the same price as the next person to go to an event, should (in my opinion) be able to go to any event that’s included in that ticket price.”

LezlieKinyon responds that, “I’ve attended a lot of conferences over the past 2 (and, some) decades from systems & cybernetics to Pagan studies to the annual American Popular Culture Conference, the International Association for the Study of Dreams to the American Psychological Association to the various Pagan, Interfaith, F/SF, arts, and writers conferences. Every. Single. One has
“closed ” sessions where in not everyone attending is invited or welcome. … For a lot of reasons stretching from the esoteric to the matters of age or gender, philosophy, and even profession.”

Fritterfae writes, “When people seek out spaces that are gender exclusive they are doing so because there is a need for connection to shared experience. And yes, that exclusivity can be hurtful to people who have been discriminated against and belittled for their gender identity. But it doesn’t negate the need for people to want to connect with a subgroup that they feel makes sense to them.”

I would like to add this quote from Peter Dybing, ” The silent protest was intended to call Z to account for her hateful words from last year, something many in the community attempted to do during the year and were met with silence. The statement was made that such speech was not considered valid as part of the debate. Z to her credit got the message and offered an an apology. This issue ends there. A successful effort to keep the needed debate in the community focused on compassionate communication. Those who would bring larger issues to the table and use this opportunity to escalate the situation are risking the ability of the community to now process these important issues. It is time for compassion in this discussion, time for the Trans community to sit and listen with open hearts to the pain of women who have suffered abuse at the hands of men, time for the Dianic community to listen with open hearts to the Trans communities experience of violence and exclusion. I believe all of my sisters have the ability to tap into the energy if the divine and approach these issues with respect, compassion and the intent to heal.”

The conversations taking place in the greater Pagan, Heathen, and polytheist communities have expanded past the more narrowly defined meditative protest at PantheaCon aimed at Z Budapest’s comments and that’s healthy for us to do. We are trying to find out what ethics and norms should be in place when we all gather together, but let’s be clearer about what we are discussing, let’s listen to one another in contemplation, and speak with compassion.

About Cara Schulz
  • http://www.facebook.com/paposehn Philip Posehn

      Nicely articulated. I think “Position 4″ is probably the only safe way to navigate through this issue. Abrasive as she is to many Z. Budapest IS an elder. On the other hand, Trans women and men have a right to be treated the same way as cis- women and men. For us as practitioners of Magic to deny someone’s act of personal transformation would be absurd.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000451145781 MrsBs Confessions

      Respectfully, I have to say that just being an “elder” does not demand respect nor give a person the *right* to have a ritual/workshop at an event.  Though it’s apples and oranges, I’d not attend any convention where the Frosts were holding a workshop, though many still consider them “elders” in the Pagan community.

      I’m not saying, just to be clear, that Z. Budapest should or should not be allowed to hold ritual at next year’s Pantheacon or that anyone should boycott it – just that past standing should not automatically equal respect for anyone.

    • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

      Abrasive as she is to many Z. Budapest IS an elder.

      Not in my religion.  Not in most pagan religions, I’d wager.  The broad-base good she’s done for the entire community and thus position that gives her for the entirety of the pagan umbrella is relatively small when compared to the esteem she has clearly earned in her own tradition and that which she may hold amongst traditions influenced by her.  She’s only slightly more relevant to most other pagan religions than the Pope.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1567623630 Karen St John

        Who’s also an elder in his church…well, okay, a monk now…

  • Soliwo

    Thank you for identifying the different debates, I feel that a lot of people who supposedly are disagreeing with each other actually talk about quite different issues.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=522944722 Maureen Aisling Duffy-Boose

    It is refreshing to see the idea that people of good heart are disagreeing because they don’t realize that they are not actually talking about the same thing at all. I am a ciswoman who came out as a lesbian when I was already a grandmother, but who now feels as if I am almost gender-neutral. I was married to a sexually abusive man and suffered repeated rapes and sexual violence. My wife is a transwoman who is, and will perhaps ever be, pre-surgical due to finances and age. She, too, has suffered sexual and gender-related abuse. And I could talk passionately about every facet of this experience, or set of experiences. But they would all be DIFFERENT conversations–and statements made in one conversation would perhaps spark fury in another. Let us do our best to come to consensus with compassion…

  • Info

    There are plenty of avenues to have gender specific rituals. Events like PantheaCon, public festivals and events should be open to those who attend. These events are setup to bring education to an already ignorant society, especially when it comes to Paganism, when you start adding gender specific or limitations, then you are no different then any other extremist pushing specific views. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/ardysd Ardys DeLu

       Pantheacon has plenty of rituals limited to a certain type of person.l

      • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

        No crap.

        I for one never once insisted that any one ritual should be open to everybody —and as a man of TS history, I have the potential to be excluded from any “men only” rit wherein the organiser(s) decide that it’s for “cis men only”.  My only complaints in Ms Budapest’s directions have been 1) I seriously believe she intentionally chose the language she did to be a jerk to trans women, and 2) since so much of her spiritual message seems to be directly tied to menstruation and The Glory of the Almighty Uterus™, she should have used (albeit less sarcastic) language that made it clear that her ritual was simply for women of the menstrual mysteries –there are certainly more women than just those of TS history who have never experienced that and thus probably never really had much interest in Ms Budapest’s brand of spirituality, or if they ever were, this lacking experience would put them in an awkward position at such a rit.

        I’m really flabbergasted by the people insisting that any event at Pcon should be open to everybody, especially when every past program guide I’ve downloaded and examined (the last ten years’ worth) have at least a few rituals open only to specific groups of people, and not just on basis of gender.  And really now, how many of the (ostensibly cis) apparently male commentators in the various blogs kvetching and whinging about how “I paid my money, I should be able to attend every ritual” –how many would truly, genuinely be interested in the various women-only rites, especially the menstrual-related ones, if they were “open to everybody” to at least observe?  Personally, I think some things need to remain mysteries to the uninitiated, and that there can and should be a place for that at Pcon.

        …but simply because I believe that there is a place for exclusive, mystery-related (or otherwise) rituals at Pcon doesn’t mean that I somehow don’t believe that Ms Budapest still needs to be held accountable for not only what I and many other TS/TG persons and our allies consider hate-speech, but for the plain fact that she’s invited Discord to the table at a time and place when no-one else wanted Her there.

    • eruca

      So if the transexuals at Pcon decided to have a T-only ritual they should be barred from doing so and if not, then I can either try to force my way in or form a gauntlet, er, I mean “sit vigil”.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1183329613 Joseph Max

         Yes, that’s exactly right. Exclusionary rituals by any group or person in the public space of P-Con should not be allowed. A group wanting to do such events should be limited to the private suites, where, since THEY are paying for the space, they can do whatever they want and exclude whoever they want.

        Instead, groups like Dianic Wicca and Fairy (not to be confused with Faery) should limit themselves to presentations where all are invited to attend, which present themselves to the community as a whole.

        Budapest blew a perfect opportunity to actually put her point across to the community at large. She could have had her coven enact a public ritual (keeping oath-bound coven secrets out of it, of course) where the celebrants exalted their “genetic” female attributes (e.g. childbirth, “moon cycles”, and so on) and SHOWED the community WHY it means so much to them. Make the event a showcase and try to get the “outsiders” to be more sympathetic.

        • Shadows and Dimes

          To be quite frank, the idea of my path having to put on a performance like we’re animals in a zoo in order to “showcase” ourselves to other pagans kind of creeps me out.

          I think the ability to use PantheaCon to experience other paths and celebrate and do ritual with other pagans, to experience their “flavor” of the faith, is incredible. But the idea of, say, forcing myself into a men’s ritual because they had to prove the validity of their faith, a ritual that wasn’t really designed for me to participate in and nor that I should necessarily be a part of? Makes me feel a little twitchy. Sometimes, for a ritual to be truly inclusive of *everyone* — all gender, all ages — requires changing it to the point that it no longer accurately exemplifies the work of that particular branch of paganism.

          It’s great when paths want to show themselves to the world, but I in no way think it’s an obligation for them to have to completely change their path for the sake of Con.

          For my particular path? To have a ritual in which men are invited *no longer makes it a ritual of my path*. It would be a ritual, but certainly not one that accurately demonstrates the work and energy of my coven.

      • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

        So if the transexuals…

        Let me guess…  You’re a fan of Janice Raymond?

  • Peter Dybing

    Well said Cara!

  • M.H.

    I have no problem with exclusive groups for exclusive purposes, as long as it’s not arbitrary.  A general ritual for women only could include both cis and trans, where a menses ritual specifically you would want to be with people who can relate to the experience.  While a transgendered woman could have a surgery and get the (pardon the crudity) “plumbing”, the “pipes” are empty and never have and never will actually experience the thing being celebrated and ritualized.  Someone past menopause, while no longer experiencing it, has had the personal relationship with it… it’s a shared experience among all women who have ever menstruated.  To feel safe in a group setting, you want to be with like individuals.  I have no problem with this. 
    I also have no problem, in a general sense, with a ritual being held by a known bigot, as long as it is not a bigoted ritual being held in a public forum.  I have idiosyncrasies just like the rest of us, I will not judge what someone feels in their mind and their heart, as you can’t change my feeling on something by telling me you feel it is wrong, but you can reign in my actions for the sake of being tolerant and accepting. We all share the world, and to accept one groups feelings you must also accept the other groups.  If the ritual does not involve something specifically biological that even surgery cannot reproduce, I don’t see any reason other than public bigotry for denying transgendered attendance.

  • Nicole Youngman

    This is going to be a bit vague and clumsily articulated, so apologies in advance for that:

    What I’d like to see more discussion of is how/why particular people come to feel safe, loved, understood, welcomed, etc. with a certain *class* of people–many of whom may actually be complete strangers–and not with people who don’t fit into the definition of that class. Has anyone spent much time talking to the women who attended Z’s ritual, and WHY it was important to them? There’s been some mention of rape/abuse survivors wanting to be in a “safe, woman-only space” but surely there are other reasons as well. We tend to feel more safe/comfortable with “people like us,” but how do we make judgments about who is “like us” and who isn’t? What is it about some people’s personal experiences (rape/abuse and otherwise) and our surrounding culture that make people *feel* like they need to spend time with others of their sex, gender, race, age, whatever?

    Please understand that I don’t mean to say this desire is necessarily a bad thing, but we need to think about how and why it develops and how we can perhaps change how we think about the creation of “safe spaces.”

    • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

       You know, this has opened up another line of thought for me: how appropriate is it for Paganism to act as therapy? Should priestesses act as counselors? And if they do, how much and to what degree?

      • http://www.facebook.com/kargach Rob Henderson

         Definitely something I’ve been wondering this past week as well.

      • http://www.facebook.com/JasmineLunaMadre Jasmine Lunamadre

        Well christian churches do it all the time, I think that turning to faith in time of crisis is a very valid way of dealing in times of stress.  I know I have personally done that when we lost our baby 4 months ago.  Is every HPS qualified? Not at all.  I only do spiritual counseling.  By that I mean I will answer questions the best of my ability to help a person on their path. I keep it to questions about “okay how do I do this?”  or “what can I do to help myself with this issue”.  They know that I speak from my experience alone and that I am not a therapist… letting them know that you are not a therapist is a very crucial boundary that must always be kept firmly in place.  

      • http://www.facebook.com/dsalisbury David Salisbury

        Judy Harrow’s book Spiritual Mentoring has some really interesting and informative takes on that if you’re interested. Its required reading for all Firefly house clergy candidates. Super helpful in that discussion.

      • Guest

        That’s the most brilliant thing I’ve seen anybody say out of this whole thing.

        Cheers,

        Dave

      • http://www.facebook.com/marienne.foxwood Marienne Hartwood

        I was blessed that the tradition I’m in has a decent number of people who have degrees in counseling or psychology among the clergy, so when those particular skills are needed and those people are able to provide help (without conflicts of interest, for instance), it is available. That being said, one thing that we mention for students on the first day of classes is that traditional witchcraft is not group therapy–and if someone needs therapy, then he or she should seek it out, get life in order, and then if things still mesh right, come back for study.

        To me, counseling is a professional skill, like being an electrician or a financial consultant. Just because one of my brothers or sisters has changed out a light switch doesn’t mean I’ll call them to rewire my circuit breaker panel. Just because my brothers and sisters have bank accounts and investment portfolios doesn’t mean I’d hire them to do show me how to maximize an underperforming mishmash of IRAs and 401(k)s. Likewise, just because they can give awesome advice doesn’t mean I would ask them to provide the skills of a professional counselor. Yet, fair or not, when people put the label of “clergy” upon themselves, it is expected that they have been professionally trained to “clerge”. It has been my experience that this is not typically the case. They tend to be either self-taught or, at best, have gone through a peer-developed training cycle led by people who also have no professional background. It is my hope with the development of places such as Cherry Hill Seminary that some of the “professional experience” gap will be closed, but we’re likely still a generation away from that being effectively executed.

      • Katie Berger Tremaine

        I believe that it is GROSSLY inappropriate for someone who hasn’t gone through some kind of training in counseling – Seminary, for example, or a licensure program as a psychotherapist – to be doing counseling work. From my long experience as a patient, counseling is not just about comforting – it is about challenging the person being counseled to grow and change and become more accepting, both of themselves and others.

        • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

           I tell people that I can offer some pastoral counseling, but that I am not a professional counselor and will not attempt to deal with anything that should be dealt with by a professional counselor.

      • HDP1960

        Now there we get into some tricky issues. One of the things my teacher emphasized is that magick is no substitute for therapy. If a priest/ess is trained in counseling, that would be a different matter. But there are a lot of priest/esses out there who have absolutely no training other than reading a lot of books, and a good number of them will set sail on the human psyche without a single accurate map to guide them.

        In my opinion, any group that meets to create safe spaces and do spiritual work can function as a support group, or a religious group. However, that would be no substitute for working with a therapist, especially in the case of deep trauma. All too often support groups for deep trauma, if not led carefully,  can degenerate into a place where people reinforce each others’ victimhood and undermine the strengths they have that lead to recovery

      • Wahoo313

        My teachers were clear–the practice of magic is not a substitute for therapy or the same thing as a setting in which people undertake healing activities. What’s more, they insisted that people get themselves into a reasonable condition of health and well-being before they started doing magical stuff. 

        My own experience upholds this. Persona therapy and healing come before one gets seriously into magical practice.

        And I will add that a magical group ritual setting is different from a group setting that endeavors to provide therapy as ritual. 

        • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

          Not all pagans practise magic, though.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1567623630 Karen St John

      Are transsexual women doing the raping? Or inflicting the abuse?  No.  We do have it done to us, certainly.  http://www.gender.org/remember is a VERY triggering site http://www.gender.org/remember that shows how we die.  (You should see how the newspapers report our deaths…horrible.)

      Saying a ritual is for healing ALL women, then subsequently say “genetic only” is silencing our lives and voices in the name of healing.    Lady Zsunanna’s words LAST year about trans women, which were not about healing, but hurting, was the purpose of the vigil.  (They are easily googled) Trans women’s lives were silenced by her.  This year’s silent vigil wasn’t being held against healing. The trans women (and supporters) there just wanted her to know it. 

      I know that a moonblood ritual is only for women who are genetically predisposed to moonbleed.   But healing and celebrating one’s womenhood?  I celebrate mine every day.

      • Nicole Youngman

        Which is exactly the point I’m (albeit clumsily) making–WHY do the participants perceive you as a threat, when that’s so obviously not the case? I did see Z’s awful comments last year and I wonder to what extent the women who went to her ritual were aware of them and/or agreed with them.

        • Desiree Arceneaux

          Trans women are viewed as a threat by many cis women largely because prominent second-wave radical feminists like Germaine Greer, Janice Raymond, and Mary Daly spent an immense amount of time and energy incorporating cissexist bigotry into feminist ideology. Raymond quite literally built her career around transphobia; it was her PhD thesis and one of the fundamental themes of her entire existence.

          • Nicole Youngman

            Thanks–I know Daly and Greer but wasn’t familiar with Raymond. This strikes me (and I’m just speaking off-the-cuff here after a quick glance around at Amazon) as one of the difficulties that feminist theorists and sociologists can get ourselves into when we make very distinct separations between sex and gender and consider gender strictly a matter of social construction and socialization without taking real people’s feelings and lived experiences into account. Theory should come from evidence, after all–otherwise it’s just philosophy or theology or ranting.

            • Desiree Arceneaux

              Raymond was Daly’s protege, and pretty much the leader of the pack when it came to transphobia, with Greer a close — and unfortunately still viciously active to this day — second.

              From a trans perspective, second-wave feminist leaders can be divided into two groups: those who were rabidly transphobic, and those who silently agreed. Not a single notable second-wave feminist I’m aware of EVER supported trans inclusion, and I’ve _looked_.

              • http://daisysdeadair.blogspot.com/ DaisyDeadhead

                (sticks head in, goes to the wall for Andrea!)

                http://daisysdeadair.blogspot.com/2009/08/andrea-dworkin-on-transgender.html
                Dworkin wasn’t perfect, but not transphobic.  

                However, adding to the roll call:  Robin Morgan and Sheila Jeffreys were as bad as Greer, Daly, etc.

                • Desiree Arceneaux

                  Your attempt to erase Dworkin’s transphobia through spin doctoring is utterly unconvincing. 

                  The idea that transsexualism is “obsoleted” by a free society makes it absolutely clear that Dworkin was making the exact same ignorant assumptions about trans people as every other second-wave feminist, and those assumptions are innately transphobic. It might be fair to say that she was less violently transphobic than the norm, but it is completely dishonest to suggest that she was in any way “trans-positive”.

                  • http://daisysdeadair.blogspot.com/ DaisyDeadhead

                    deleted

          • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

            Raymond quite literally built her career around transphobia; it was her
            PhD thesis and one of the fundamental themes of her entire existence.

            And this thesis was advised by Mary Daly, can’t just let that run risk of being forgotten.

            • Desiree Arceneaux

              Indeed. Daly was Raymond’s doctoral advisor and mentor, so she played an instrumental role in facilitating Raymond’s thesis and then helping expand said thesis into Raymond’s first book — a book which is nothing less than the _Mein Kampf_ of feminist bigotry against trans women.

              • http://daisysdeadair.blogspot.com/ DaisyDeadhead

                She was also an ex-nun, which explains plenty.  

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  • Annsdotter45

    Cara, Thank you for writing this it is very clear and thoughtful. 

  • Coyote’s Girl

    What I would like to know is this: Say someone is completely post-op. They have abandoned their old life. No one can tell by looking that they are Trans, and they aren’t telling. Is Ms. Budapest going to set up DNA testing at her door? I think it’s wrong to be exclusive in what is meant to me an inclusive environment.  What bigots do in their own homes is up to them, but in an inclusive or public space this kind of behavior is uncalled for and the perpetrators should be publicly shunned. 

    • Jennifer

      Agree.  Also, what about cis-women who have a more masculine presentation?  How do they screen potential participants?  Is it just based on the opinions of some regarding who looks like a “real” woman to them?  Or is it an honor system based on publicly announcing no-trans (which still probably makes anyone who isn’t gender conforming feel nervous).  I wouldn’t attend something like this because I would be offended at the exclusion of others (I’m a cis-woman) but also because I’d be afraid of what kind of questioning or exam I might be subject to.

    • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

       Well, it’s not even just trans women she’s excluding with her “genetic women only” demands.  Look up “Androgen insensitibity syndrome“, it’s an intersex condition where a person is, essentially, born with an apparent physiology that looks completely female, but then puberty is delayed, menstruation never happens, and body hair is sparse, if any.  Basically, they look like women, they usually experience life completely as women, but they have XY chromosomes and “miss out” on the menstrual mysteries and any related to conceiving and birthing a child.  These are still women, having a woman’s experience, it’s just not a menstrual woman’s experience.

      …but then, from what I remember of Zsuzsanna Budapest’s work, she pretty much seems to believe that the whole of a woman’s experience is tied directly to menstruation and being a uterus with a body surrounding it, so if wouldn’t surprise me if she didn’t believe that women with AIS were even women at all, but instead some kind of “rape prevention courtesy of Goddess Herself”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ardysd Ardys DeLu

    Thanks so much for the clarity.

     I am still unclear about what ‘;cis-women’ are although I followed the link to Wikpedia.

    We need spaces for all sorts of women and men.  The needs for both separate space, and for a together space are equally important.
     

    • eruca

      “Cis woman” is a derogatory term used by transgender people and their allies to refer to women who were born female and have remained female.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000451145781 MrsBs Confessions

        Honestly, I’ve heard more non-transgendered people use this term when they are trying to *exclude* transgendered woman more than I’ve heard it used by transgendered women talking badly about genetically born women.

      • Dheideman

        Where are you GETTING your information?  “Cis” isn’t a derogatory term at ALL, it’s simply a neutral prefix.

        “Cis” is  the opposite of “trans” — both Latin terms, frequently used in chemistry. 

        Respectively, they mean “remaining on the same side of” and “on the opposite side of”. 

        “Cis-gendered” just means “your gender identity and physical sex match”, so a cis man is a man that feels like he is male, and a cis woman is a woman that feels like she is a woman.

        It’s not insulting, it is in fact the CORRECT term when attempting to draw a distinction.  “Natural”, “genetic”, “x-born X” or worse “real”? Those are insulting. 

        • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

           The best way I’ve ever explained the meaning and relevance of cisgender is to point out that “heterosexual”, “bisexual”, and “homosexual” are all words that exist to explain human sexuality on neutral grounds, with no one orientation presented as more “normal” than the other.  Thus the word “cisgender” exists as a counterpart to “transgender” in a similar fashion, and makes neither experience of gender any more “normal” than the other.

          If somebody still insists on being offended after that, then clearly it’s their problem.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/M6EQN4EPE75PAQZ6QBXCYIILBE AcidQueen

        “cis” is derogatory?  By what measure?

    • Cara

      Near as I can tell, and someone correct me if I’m wrong, cisgender means someone who was born and developed physically as the gender they feel internally.

      • Katie Berger Tremaine

        That’s correct. It’s not derogatory, but some people take it as derogatory for the same reason that some men complain about “reverse sexism” and some whites complain about “reverse racism:” Because it shows that a privilege interaction exists that the person objecting would prefer to remain invisible.

    • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

       http://ofthespiae.hellenistai.com/2012/02/24/a-no-nonsense-tstg-101-for-pagans/
      Here you go. :-)  Keep in mind, I’m a little cocky, but it’s all in good humour.

  • Guest

    I dig your style Cara. Keep it classy, keep it on task. Gods hope something good comes from this mess.

    Cheers,

    Dave

  • Desiree Arceneaux

    The sheer ludicrousness of the argument that it is acceptable to exclude trans women from women’s groups/events because some cis women MIGHT find our presumed or actual bits triggering becomes evident if you substitute any other anatomical feature of women.
    After all, we do not exclude women of color because their skin tone might trigger someone.

    • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

      Or, perhaps:  Are women who have scars from domestic abuse excluded as potential triggers?  Are women with mastectomy scars excluded as potential triggers?  Are cisgender women who are simply tall and broadly built excluded as potential triggers?  Hirsute women?  Women who’ve had a leg amputated and have one of those runner’s prostheses that looks kinda like a crowbar at a quick glance?  Are they “triggery”, too?

      These are important questions.  When does the potential “trigger” become too silly to exclude, and why?  And do these cis women with a (often phantom) phallophobia even realise that most trans women on HRT for about six months (sometimes less) are chemically castrated and are no more a “potential rapist” than a temple eunuch?

  • Anonymous

    ‘ Fritterfae writes, “When
    people seek out spaces that are gender exclusive they are doing so
    because there is a need for connection to shared experience. And yes,
    that exclusivity can be hurtful to people who have been discriminated
    against and belittled for their gender identity. But it doesn’t negate
    the need for people to want to connect with a subgroup that they feel
    makes sense to them.” ‘Substitute “gender” for “race” above and tell me if this still makes sense. If “race exclusive” venues would be provided for people with the “need to connect” on that subject.Of course racial discrimination is illegal. In a “public accommodation.” Discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity may not be illegal. (I would have thought California would have something to say about that, but I guess they aren’t as progressive as they think.)

    • Cara

      This is a point brought up and there are rituals and workshops that are specific to a race/culture/geographical area.  I’ve seen a workshop that focused on connecting to ancestors of a specific culture and how to honor them in a more traditional manner.  I’ve also seen rituals for Pagans with slave ancestors to help connect and heal and workshops specifically for Pagans of color to share their experiences.  It was later followed by a workshop with all participants to bring about a tighter, more understanding community (there had been racial tensions in the community previously and this was the start of a healing process).

  • http://twitter.com/ashareem HRM

    My wife and I took pastoral counseling classes several years ago; one of the first things we were taught was to learn your limitations and when to refer someone to the paid professionals in the field.

  • http://blog.chasclifton.com/ Chas Clifton

    Let’s see…Z Budapest comes here from another country, makes it in America, has been in the Craft for fifty years or so, and yes, she is a little arrogant and has not kept up with the latest gender-jargon. Now people want her sent to a virtual re-education camp where she will work in the fields, correct her counter-revolutionary thoughts, and properly humble herself before those who are younger and more progressive.

    And then people ask, “Where are the elders in the Craft?”

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1183329613 Joseph Max

       I was thinking more of a hair shirt and scourging whip…

      Really, Chas, don’t be overdramatic. According to people who spent time with her in the last year since all of this dust-up began, she’s well aware of the “gender-jargon”, she just pointedly refuses to use it. And “a little arrogant’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.

      There are quite a few elders in the craft who don’t call those who disagree hurtful names and insist on their right to hold grudges against an entire class of people. No one is demanding she open her own coven to anyone she doesn’t want to. What people are asking for is some sensitivity to the situation. She used a public convention to make an “arrogant” political statement, knowing it would overshadow the whole event. And I have this strong feeling that she pushed the P-Con programmers into letting her get away with it, refusing to hold any other kind event but the one that would shove her point in the faces of people who disagree with her. And I feel the programmers agreed only if she would issue a “statement”, which I think the staff wrote for her (why else would they have written copies ready to pass out; why else would she have conveniently left her reading glasses behind when she was supposed to read it, then gave her OWN “statement” paraphrasing it with her own spin?)

      This is not just arrogance, it’s selfishness.

    • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

      That’s an immensely unfair and incredibly melodramatic assessment of the situation.

    • Gwenaelle Le Fey

       How ridiculous!  How dare they expect to her have a brain and grow with the times!  Don’t you know that ALL older people never leave their childhood!  Older people are not capable of learning anything new!  Can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  Just reiterating what you said Chas.  How sad to stay stuck in another era.

      Now, seriously.  She’s had decades to learn from life.  She’s had decades to see the women’s movement grow strong.  She’s had decades to become wise and help the younger ones along the path.  But, that hasn’t really happened.  She proved it last year and this year.

      We have many elders in our community that have actually continued and learned over time and transformed into the elders we seek.  Those that are all inclusive and wise beyond their years.  I’ve never heard anyone ask “Where are the elders in the craft?”  Maybe they don’t want to get stuck in time with you. 

      BTW, I’m way past middle age so it’s not just the young people who are progressive.  It’s not something to humble yourself to, nor is it the establishment.  It IS revolutionary thinking.  If we are all reborn in the cycle of life to continue learning, wouldn’t just make common sense that sometimes a women’s soul was in a man’s body and vice versa?  Maybe that soul needed to learn something, or maybe teach someone.  There are many possibilities in gender in people and nature. Just open your eyes and see the wonder.

      • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

         I already clicked “Like”, but I just had to tell you personally that I *love* your comment here.  I keep looking for a passage to “quote for truth”, but it’s all true, and nearly everything is something I myself would say.

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  • Gus diZerega

    Excellent post, Cara.   Many wise comments, and I particularly liked Fritterfae and Peter Dybing’s words.

  • http://www.thedomesticpagan.net/ Serenity Raven

    I am saddened to see this an issue in 2012 and in paganism of all things. I don’t think the issue here is about restrictions as much as it is about what Z. Budapest has said about what a woman “really” is. Being a woman is not solely about what is between a persons legs. Thank you Z. Budpest for reducing womanhood to her sexual organs. She’s done exactly what men have been doing for over 2000 years. Ironic considering supression and inequality is exactly why she created the Dianic tradition in the first place.

    • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

      Thank you so much for getting it.

      Most trans women in these threads have even said that they don’t care about menstrual mystery rites, so much as Ms Budapest’s ungendering words, and her spiteful actions of creating a ritual event proclaiming to heal and to celebrate the divine feminine and its “infinite variety”, and then excluding many women who need that kind of healing and affirmation, and preceding it with a fauxpology that practically blamed those she hurt last year with her words.

      This isn’t about whether or not Pcon should only have events that everybody can attend (as many people have brought up, often simply to derail from the issue), it’s about some-one celebrated in the pagan community as an “elder” and a “leader” who has done everything within her power to actively alienate people, this last two years, especially.

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  • LIsh

    It’s no coincidence that Z
    Budapest’s rhetoric reads like a broadside from the feminist movement of
    the 1970′s. That is when her generation initially fulminated their
    life-long animosity toward transwomen, and that is why this is at root a
    dispute between generations.
    For those interested in the
    actual source of Z Budapest’s ritual beliefs, check out the decades-long
    controversy over the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. That is the
    culture she is attempting to insinuate into the Pagan world: http://www.fuah.org/MWMF_press-statement.html

    • Katie Berger Tremaine

      I’ve said before: It’s not what she’s trying to insinuate – it’s already there. We’re trying to decenter it.

  • FeistyAmazon

    Again, a very one sided debate. There are REASONS for born female mysteries, because no born male can possibly have the experiences that all born females have in common, born and raised.  And that includes all bio females, as Dianic wicca has from the beginning…especially including Lesbians and Butch Lesbians. So don’t bring in ‘well what about the Butches?’ Dianic and Dianic oriented Wicca has always included us, though Z has more ministered in her later years from what I can see as affluent straight women, who have come to Dianic Wicca in droves.

    We NEED this space, and maybe Pantheacon is not it. Not just for our blood mysteries, but for our shared experiences from birth and being raised as girls, not ‘our gender’, but our sex….that we either rebelled against the gender strait jackets like many of us Butches have as young tomboy girls, or conformed to it as many Femme or feminine women have.

    Z gave Lesbians a PLACE to have a spirituality, to be honored as women loving women, and for loving the womon both within ourselves and the Sacred Female. These are NOT the rites of the biologically male. And if we’ve said it enough times that we consider ‘cisgender’ to be offensive, or to say that MIchfest is  a space for born female women, inclusive of even the most hardcore born female Butch Lesbian to have a place, where many are being told “you’d be a good candidate for transition, or you must be FTM” and no longer recognized as the FEMALES they are because of the trans movement, it is scary times for us.

    Perhaps our mysteries need only be shared on women’s lands and NOT in mixed spaces like Pantheacon. There are many, many Dianics that feel strongly about the born female policies, and many, many Lesbians who feel strongly about Michfest REMAINING BY AND FOR BORN FEMALES, and that MTF’s have hugely coopted our Lesbian and women’s cultures for their issues, and for their assumption of male privilege they have retained throughout their lives BEFORE transition.

    I don’t agree with all of what Z Budapest has done, and we have had our own disagreements in the past. Her language has sometimes been harsh with individuals she disagrees with, including myself. But I do feel very strong as a Butch Dyke that Dianic Wicca and Amazon Mysteries that are by and for WBW only are where I belong. And I will fight to my final day to protect those Mysteries.

    I respect that gay men need THEIR male mysteries, and it’s on them whether they want to cater to born male only or also FTM’s. I respect that women of color or people of color need their own rites as well. But the trans community has NEVER given the Lesbian community the same respect, and in fact has attempted to coopt every one of our spaces, organizations, rites and mysteries in the same colonizing and male way that whites have attempted to colonize Native American rites, identity and Lands.

    And we are fighting back and organizing, and more than likely, because of all this controversy, I will never attend Pantheacon. But in my heart of hearts, I WILL be at Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival to celebrate in OUR born female rites this year, and amongst my own…..
                                                          -FeistyAmazon

    • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

      …we consider ‘cisgender’ to be offensive…

      Considering that you also use the heteronormative term “straight”, this doesn’t surprise me.  I mean, you clearly have some major self-hatred to work on to basically say that heterosexuality is “normal”, “honest”, “sober”, and “law-abiding”, and anything else isn’t.

      • Katie Berger Tremaine

        I think that her rant overall is far more self-revealing than intended… that kind of violent rejection can only come from a place of deep personal insecurity.

        • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

          You know, I’d be tempted to “like” your comment if not for the fact that I went under total anesthesia and nearly died from it all for a surgery any doctor would define as a medically “radical” surgery, but which I know for a fact you believe is “uninvasive” (though I’m sure you made your stupid girlfriend proud with that little stunt you knew you were pulling, complete with a fauxpology that even Zsuzsanna Budapest would be proud of).

          Do NOT talk to me, Katherine; I don’t need some two-faced person like yourself playing all nice at me only until some other trans man pees in your cornflakes so you can have an excuse to say some more of the totally busted crap I know you’ve said before.  Don’t act like you don’t hate me just because we’re on the same side over this.  Just cos I happen to agree with you on this particular issue doesn’t mean I don’t still find you a completely repugnant individual who gets perverse glee out of being a total bully.

          • Katie Berger Tremaine

            I don’t hate you. But you’re making it really hard not to right now.

          • Desiree Arceneaux

            That was completely uncalled for.

          • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

             This is the second Patheos blog I’ve had to ban you from. Apparently you are completely unable to be civil.

    • kenneth

      So go off in the woods and to all the “women born women” rituals you want. Just leave the rest of us out of it and do it on your own dime.

    • Anantasher

      I think what people are forgetting is that even if gender is a construct (which I fully believe it is), saying that isn’t going to eradicate sexism. Just like saying there’s no race (which, again, is a construct) isn’t going to end racism. Selective essentialism is needed on a temporary basis, IMHO, for healing purposes. I’m not the biggest fan of Z. Budapest and her “oh, if you have menstrual pains you are probably just not in touch with the moon and your wombyn energy” beliefs, but the other extreme–”well, plumbing shouldn’t matter” ignores some very real issues about sexism in the world we live in and the gender-specific rubbish women-born-women are subject to on a daily basis. Sure, transsexual/transgender people get abuse and gender rubbish on a daily basis as well, but it’s not the same thing, and to try and pretend otherwise is rather blinkered–there’s a difference in the types of abuse. It’s as off-putting as the “but what about poor men being abused by women who want child support, the greedy cows?” arguments thrown against feminists in the name of “equality”, when the men are still the ones enjoying a privileged position. Or, you know, the straight middle-aged white guy moaning about how he’s really oppressed by gay brown people these days. Oh, the humanity. But please, let’s remember there’s still a long way to go for both feminism and LGBTQ folks before there’s equality in the world, and before that happens, both women-born-women and TS/TG people need their own spaces. I’m genderqueer myself and wouldn’t dream of attending certain types of rituals (funnily enough, I find the vibes amongst butch lesbian Dianics a bit too butch for me and have found more “femme” vibes in rituals with queer folks of all kinds of gender/genderqueer variations).

      Gender essentialism can be a big problem in Paganism, but when I look at things from within the LGBTQ community of which I’m a part myself, I find a hell of a lot of gender essentialism–to the point of rather disturbing levels of violent sexism–amongst transpeople as well. Some of the biggest misogynists I’ve met have been FTMs. And as we’ve seen, there are lesbians who can be downright misandrist and ready to castrate every penis-owner coming their way. So I’d say there are issues on both sides. There are no easy answers to this, of course. I’d still insist exclusivist spaces are needed for healing, but in the broader sphere, people need to stop being so damn hung up about what’s between their legs defining their personalities/essential natures, since that’s what started all the trouble in the first place (both the violence against women and queer people).  

       

      • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

        Sure, transsexual/transgender people get abuse and gender rubbish on a
        daily basis as well, but it’s not the same thing, and to try and pretend
        otherwise is rather blinkered–there’s a difference in the types of
        abuse. It’s as off-putting as the “but what about poor men being abused
        by women who want child support, the greedy cows?” arguments thrown
        against feminists in the name of “equality”, when the men are still the
        ones enjoying a privileged position. Or, you know, the straight
        middle-aged white guy moaning about how he’s really oppressed by gay
        brown people these days. Oh, the humanity. But please, let’s remember
        there’s still a long way to go for both feminism and LGBTQ folks before
        there’s equality in the world, and before that happens, both
        women-born-women and TS/TG people need their own spaces. I’m genderqueer
        myself and wouldn’t dream of attending certain types of rituals
        (funnily enough, I find the vibes amongst butch lesbian Dianics a bit
        too butch for me and have found more “femme” vibes in rituals with queer
        folks of all kinds of gender/genderqueer variations).

        Thank you for buying into the cissexism that trans women and men are not women and men.  I mean, with this passage, you seriously just told whatever trans women following these comments that she has “male privilege” and should quit “her” bellyaching.

        See, the thing is, as a GQ person your experience is wholly different from that of trans women and trans men because you don’t experience gender in the same ways we do, and so you really have no more right to tell us where we belong than a transphobic cis person does.

        • charlotte

          *cough*

          “See, the thing is, as a trans-person your experience is wholly different from that of cis-women and cis-men because you don’t experience gender in the same ways we do (…)”

          Um…just sayin’…

        • Lilith

          To cite a recent dustup on twitter about the #sharedgirlhood hashtag…and to put this extremely bluntly…

          Sorry, but tucking my dick just wasn’t part of my “shared girlhood” experience – because I don’t have one.

          • Nigel Prancypants

            And I’ve got a cisgender aunt who’s never menstruated. And one of my best (cis) girl friends has never gone bra shopping on account of being flat-chested.

            Lots of things aren’t a part of some mythical, universal “shared girlhood” that only exists in Budapest’s Dianic fiction.

  • Shaiarabs

    ooo minefield.. genetically there is so many variations.. a high percentage of women born as men are genetically so and the same for men born as women.. where to hermaphrodites fit in to their little box, when they have both female and male organs?….only a few are choosing that existence.. that said.. if its a public ritual, then anyone should be able to attend, if its a group ritual then they should do as they please..

    • http://www.peacockfairy.com Ruadhán J McElroy

      Intersex” is generally the preferred term now, and very few such individuals have “both female and male organs” in any complete state.  “Hemaphrodite” seems to be more-acceptable amongst pagans, but as a rule, it’s best to only use it to refer to individuals who explicitly identify with the term.

  • Darkirish

    It’s unfortunate that these transgendered women were unwelcomed from attending a public event they had paid to faithfully attend, but maybe they should have read the fine print or inquired because of their unique specialness?  Alas not every wiccan/pagan group is welcoming some are very exclusive which personally I feel is unnecessary  if you id as a specific gender and have taken all necessary steps to embrace that gender, then the questions & suspicions should be quieted and we should instead join together & rejoice in the beautiful mysteries of womanhood.. There will always be those who do not share our point of view and will refuse to open rituals/events to include all of us who love the mother goddess as women..sobeit..it is alright because there is a place for everyone in her kingdom, she has not forgotten one of us and whatever thorns we may have to bear here, if we have done well she will welcome us with open arms..

  • Cynthia

    I am a XX chomosome being.  I say this because I am not techno savy enough to change my avitar to the left to the correct picture of myself. 
    I also want to say that I was not an attendee to PantheaCon and thus make this entry from a great distance removed from the actual happening. 
    I wish to add one additional perspective about Dianic Tradition. It is my understanding that it is based upon the BLOOD MYSTERIES. It is also my understanding that the blood mysteries are generally not experienced by trans females. Are they by hermaphrodites? I don’t know. Howerver, I strongly believe that we Dianics have the right to have separate ritual, unattentended by men because of this. What do they know (no, really, KNOW) about the blood mysteries?  We cannot even use the word that describes us in the literature of our time without including the word “male” in the word “fe-male”. We are not some other type of “male”.  We are XX beings (not wo-”men). I don’t think that it is too much to require that at least in Dianic ritual that we be able to have ritual without the presense of men. This does not mean that there are no men in our lives, men we may be married to, men for whom we have great love, or transgender men for whom we have great love for in our lives.  It means only that we seek ritual space for ourselves alone, we who have known  the blood mysteries.  Where does this take us in regards to trans men?  I don’t yet “Grock” this in my own understanding. It is a mystery that I have yet to understand, but I’m working on it.
    Blessed Be our challenge to understand. 
    Blessed Be The Goddess.
    Cynthis

    • Desiree Arceneaux

      The exclusion of trans men from women’s space has never been controversial; it’s the exclusion of trans women which is controversial.

      Incidentally, “female” and “women” are not etymologically derived from “male” and “men”. They certainly look like they are, but that’s a false etymology.

      • charlotte

        “Incidentally, “female” and “women” are not etymologically derived from “male” and “men”. They certainly look like they are, but that’s a false etymology.”

        Care to further elucidate?

        • Onyx

          * Female:

          Middle English: from Old French femelle, from Latin femella, diminutive of femina ‘a woman.’ The change in the ending was due to association with male, but the words male and female are not otherwise linked etymologically.

          *Male:
          late Middle English: from Old French masle, from Latin masculus, from mas ‘a male.’

  • Lilith

    I like the way you think, Chas.

    Once again, women-born-women have to step aside, and put our needs aside, and make way for someone who wasn’t born a woman.

    You know, people seem to have forgotten that we do have a right to simply dislike something or not want to be around some people, and whatever reasons we have for that, we are not required to give to anyone else.

    “Because I Said So” is reason enough. I don’t have to justify squat to anyone. People are free to SAY NO to anything.

    So if women-born-women say “no, trans people, we don’t want you in this rite or conference or space” or whatever, that just means that in that space, they’re not welcome. Nothing more. They can go off and form their own spaces and groups and whatnot that DOES address THEIR unique needs.

    Jeez, this isn’t rocket science.

  • Lilith

    I’m 44 years old and I say that Budapest, in doing her part to ensure that women-born-women have their own space, IS being wise. And very brave; she’s doing something most others don’t have the iron ovaries to do themselves.

    People are using “inclusivity” the way Christians use the Bible – to bash people over the head and force them to conform to this new type of orthodoxy. Well, I thought we were pagans because we didn’t like that, we liked diversity, etc etc. It’s like….a form of idolatry. You yourself are engaging in this. You’re bashing Chas over the head and attempting to force him to come over to YOUR IDEA of what a properly enlightened person would do. Who died and appointed YOU the pagan Pope? Oh wait, we don’t have one of those.

    Diversity, if it’s going to be REAL DIVERSITY, MUST include the possibility of men-born-men and women-born-women having their own space and groups and time apart that has nothing to do with trans people. Let them form their own groups. Nothing is stopping them from doing that.

  • Lilith

    But the point needs to be made – that even in 2013 attempts are STILL made to force women-born-women to step aside and put their needs second to some other group.

    NO. We as a whole do not have to do that. Individual women might choose to do so, freely, but don’t force us all to do it. That only breeds resentment.

    These new minorities are some serious bullies; they have even been known to make threatening calls and emails to a venue that was the location of a radfem conference. So these trans activists and their allies are DANGEROUS, and we women face enough of that crap from cis men! The venue (in Toronto) canceled, and a new venue was found. That new venue was STILL infiltrated, and women-born-women were still subjected to the unwelcome intrusion of trans people into their space.

    LAY OFF, PEOPLE! When cis women want to meet, take the hint and leave them the hell alone. Go do your own thing.

  • Lilith

    This entire dustup, and the comments appended to this essay, remind me of why I stay miles away from 99.999999999999% of pagan anything.

    Pagans seem more interested in politics than in actual spirituality.
    Pagans seem more interested in leftist/liberal politics than anything else.
    Pagans seem more interested in a new political leftist orthodoxy than in spirituality or anything religious at all. Politics IS the new religion among pagans.

    I got started in paganism back in the late 1980s, and I’m really dismayed that it has devolved into this nonsense.

    You all can have it. I’ll go be solitary, thanks.

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