Respectfully Demanding Tolerance

“It demands great spiritual resilience not to hate the hater whose foot is on your neck, and an even greater miracle of perception and charity not to teach your child to hate.”” – James Arthur Baldwin.

I have avoided writing about my position on the Z Budapest conflicts that continue to infiltrate the web throughout the last two years.  In trying to hold respect for an elder of the path that has contributed so much, I have held my tongue when I really wanted to speak.  This week I was priviledged to participate in one of the Pagan Hangouts that are being coordinated by Star Foster and the topic was active tolerance.  I made some statements on the hangout that referred to our responsibility to actively work towards tolerance in the Pagan community by not accepting the “okie doke” and allowing our differences to respectfully be seen and heard.  Turning our heads and neglecting to be a part of demanding respectful engagement is not acceptable; we are all responsible for the idea of having a tolerant community.


And with that, my next thought is “oh boy…. why did I say that?  Here we go…”.


Here we are again with another series of statements made by Z Budapest where the use of really derogatory words are being used, such as trannie, and it has pushed me to speak.  I don’t want to jump on any bandwagon and my soapbox is somewhere in the garage, so instead I will try to practice what I preach by talking about one of the unsettling moments where respect and tolerance is not being extended and I am not willing to walk away from the values I hold for my community.

There was a time, not so long ago, where Black people, ethnic people, gay people or even women were denied chances to actively participate in the wider community.  Many people have fought against  social injustice and supported the equal rights for people regardless of what category someone might fall into.  The disparities among different classes of people have been apparent throughout time and the struggle for fair rights continue on today.  We are actively fighting against prejudice today, as we should.

It has never, in my opinion, been justified or acceptable to judge someone based on race, gender, sex, nationality or socioeconomic status.  Everyone should have equal rights and opportunities under the law.

I wonder how it becomes ok to display overt acts of harmful hate speech while claiming to fight for the rights of women, or anyone for that matter.  We cannot repeat the same acts that we are fighting against in order to demand different treatment.  This is so confusing to me.

When hate becomes justified we are opening doors for all kinds of hatred, regardless of the circumstances.  If the Pagan community endorses the use of words like trannie or referring to transgendered as “marines in lipstick”, it is equivalent to endorsing the use of fag, nigger or any other word that is meant to degrade a group of people as if they were less than human, less than a living God or Goddess.  The last time I looked I did not see one characteristic of my being that justified treatment that was any less respectful than another.  My race nor my sex is an acceptable excuse to willfully discriminate or use verbal hate.

Today I stand up within the walls of my living room and to this spiritual community, to say there is no room for this in the Pagan community.  There is no room for this in the world but that is another subject for another time.

My mother would tell me stories of segregation and what it was like to be in the south during a time when her skin dictated her worth to the world.  She told me about being bussed to another school or restricted by others due to their ideals of her as a Black girl.  I don’t know if it makes me angrier to know that my mother had to live through that version of the world or that I do today in my own spiritual community.

We have to understand that we do not receive rights by taking others away.  We cannot expect respect until we learn to give it.  We cannot demand tolerance and understanding if we actively work to take it away from others.  Hate sets a standard that equals hate; we mirror for others how to operate in the world and within ours.  When we lump together a group of people and make an assessment of their right to love and fair treatment, we are discriminating and it is an act of prejudice.  When we polarize an issue we create a winner and a loser.  We have to ask ourselves what it means if one part of our community loses and if “they” lose then how can anyone win?

Within each of us we possess the essence of the earth, air, fire, water, and the male/female essence of divinity.  Not only do we possess each piece of the universe within our bodies, the work that it takes to balance all the varying parts require respect for the roles each part plays.  To deny a part of ourselves is to deny the self.

I realize without a shadow of a doubt that I am strong because I am Woman and my very being was made by a guy named Marvin and a woman named Cora.  My mother is not responsible for creating me alone and therefore I extend respect to all as I am a product of the duality of human nature.  The sense of self loathing that is ever present in discrimination shows that we have a lot of work to do in our ability to accept the self so that we can accept others.

Tolerance is not passive, it is something we decide on, focus on, embrace, practice and demand.  Today it is time to say we are no longer allowing a false sense of tolerance in the Pagan community to mask our own version of the microcosm of the greater society that we fight against.  We create what we say we hate instead of love what we want to be loved for.

In my day job I work with some of the most incredible yet impoverished kids and we work to identify who they are and who they want to be.  Then they work hard to identify how to work within their own integrity, a sense of being able to match their insides with their outsides.  Any journey to wholeness starts inside and we move to bring it outward to create the very world we want to live in.

Maybe we need to start from scratch.  In order to truly embrace tolerance and acceptance everyone should dig inside of the self and identify those things that are divine.  Then look at the very people whom walk the halls of the next Pagan convention, stand across from you in the next open circle or post something ridiculous on the internet and find those same qualities inside of each of them.  Don’t stop looking until you find what you are looking for.  And just maybe then we will have a harder time listening to or calling someone a “trannie” (or insert your own version of intolerance here).



Note:  This blog is not meant to open the doors to defending intolerance.  This blog is not meant to disrespect any one person but an acceptance of intolerance among our own.  Please be respectful in your displays of community if you wish to comment.  I do not plan to accept verbal discrimination or hate towards anyone in the comments as a result to this piece.


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Magical Beginnings Begin Again
Meditation: The Path to Spiritual Activism or Escapism
My Top Ten Pagans Working As Change Agents for Social Justice in 2014
  • krisbradley

    Bravo!  A beautifully written post, without hate speech towards someone who uses hate speech.   I absolutely do not agree with much of what Z. Budapest has said lately, but becoming hateful to her will not help to dispel her  beliefs.  At the same time, I don’t feel that we can sit idly by without speaking out, as it gives silent approval to what she is saying.

    • Crystal Blanton

      Agreed. I think that our emotional reactions can often be to dish back what we perceive we have received but I do not think this always helps. After the immediate gratification of telling somewhere where to go, we lose the impact we could have had with communicating or reacting differently. I personally feel that one of the hardest things to do is to show tolerance when you are not receiving it.

  • Cara

    Tolerance is me not caring about what you do unless you get in my face or try to force your beliefs onto me.  I tolerate it.  Or ignore it, as the case may be. I don’t actively suppress or support it.  

    What you seem to be describing and advocating is activism.   Which is fine and certainly warranted and needed in certain situations, but that’s not tolerance.   

    • krisbradley

      That’s a good point, Cara.

      At the same time, one of the definitions of “tolerance” is “freedom from bigotry”.  If we hope for the Pagan community to be a tolerant one, we need people (who are comfortable in doing so) to take that stand and speak up against intolerance.  It goes hand-in-hand, I think.

      • Pythia Theocritos

        I think the main issue I have with this viewpoint is that it leads to the current group think so prevalent within the pagan community. We’re a religious umbrella, which means there ARE going to be pagans who will not agree with the chosen upon consensus of the vocal majority.

        And I think therein lies the rub. It’s easy to talk about a tolerant pagan community, but tolerance is a very personal thing, and even now, with a community “dead set” on tolerance;  the general attitude I get in this community is “tolerance as long as you agree with the vocal leftist, progressive, community voice.”

        That’s not tolerance. That’s social/political activism and not all of us mix our politics with our religion. 

        I think the thing a lot of people seem to forget is the “pagan community” has very few ties aside from joining under an umbrella term. We represent different religions, political beliefs, socio-economic strata, life experiences, etc. Some of us are flower children from a by-gone era, and some of us are super conservative in regards to our beliefs about gender, nationality, economics, etc. Some of us are radicals and extremists.

        “Tolerance” to me does not mean making every pagan who decides to be under the umbrella feel pushed out or “less than” for not sharing the group consensus. I tolerate Z Budapest by ignoring her, but if the pagan transsexual community came out saying they were forming their own mystery cult and all women were welcome, I’d tolerate that by putting a +1 on that post. I tolerate pagans who believe one must be ethnically linked to the gods they worship by logging that viewpoint away and getting on with my business.

        I think there’s a very fine line between tolerance and assimilation, and as the “pagan community” makes more and more of its politics and ideologies clear, it seems as if assimilation is the main goal.  Maybe I want to avoid “No True Scotsman” fallacies, but admitting we have these people within our community, I think, is the first step to actual tolerance above saying ;

        “All pagans have to think this way.”

        I am not saying we, individually, embrace that which we find deplorable. I am saying that people have a right to embrace what they want and I stand just as much for that (even if I want to punch them in their teeth for it) as I do for issues and causes close to my heart

        • Lisaspiral

          I agree that the idea of tolerance could lead to assimilation, but I don’t think that’s Crystal’s point here at all.   We are a broad community and we will have disagreements in philosophy and practice.  We can even voice those disagreements but we MUST do so in a respectful manner.

          Crystal is in disagreement, along with much of the rest of the community, with the manner in which Z has expressed her views on the exclusivity of her practice.  The difference is that in expressing her disagreement Crystal has made an effort to do so while also acknowledging respect for the contributions Z has made to the larger community.

          Hate speech being unacceptable is a positive community value.  If agreeing to hold to that standard means “assimilation” I guess I’m all for it.

          • Crystal Blanton

            Very much my thoughts. Very well put.

            I too think that people have every right to disagree…. (I may think very uncool thoughts about it but it is a right) and yet I do not think it is OK to disrespect others by the use of hateful words that are meant to degrade any group of people. I try hard (really…) to respect others and yet I cannot respect or tolerate outright spoken hate around me. It is so wrong to approach community that way.

            I do not advocate for assimilation. I am very eclectic in my practice and could not see assimilating to any one way of thought or practice…. yet I do hold the value of respect while doing so.


          • T Thorn Coyle

            Lisaspiral, it is this: “Hate speech being unacceptable is a positive community value” that I’ve been concerned with, and that I feel Crystal is speaking to. 

            Have private rites if you wish, but don’t spout hate speech in public and expect to not be challenged or criticized. Hate speech fosters fear, not tolerance. There are close to 200 reported murders of trans people each year – people killed simply for being trans, direct hate crimes. Hate speech fosters hate crimes as well. 

            Crystal, thank you for speaking to this. 

            As I wrote in response to someone else recently:

            True diversity is really difficult (understatement of the year). It either ends up looking like: We will put up with anything from anyone because they have a right to think/speak/feel/act however they want in the name of diversity! Or it looks like: We want diversity as long as we all agree. True diversity requires that we talk with one another, disagree with one another, sometimes argue, find places of mutual respect, attempt deeper understanding… and with all of that, sometimes we still have to draw lines and say, “That is actually not acceptable speech or behavior as it actively undermines the diverse community we have been trying to foster.”Diversity is not cultural relativism. It is not, as one friend puts it “Benetton Diversity.” It requires we actually engage. That takes more work than some of us are willing or able to put in.

            But the rest of us can keep trying.

    • Crystal Blanton

      Cara, while I understand that some feel that ignoring is the same as tolerating, I do not. I feel that people have adopted the “as long as it is not in my back yard” approach to differences and forget that it is in all of our backyards. I think being present in the process of community is not about activism (although for some it can be) and can just be about being community. While I am not directly a person being spoke about in this instance, many of my brothers and sisters are. That hurts them and it hurts me. In addition, I think we have to really work to understand what community really means…. and how to be a productive part of it. I do not think we often get that by silence per say.

      To tolerate something is an action, just as activism might be. Much of this definition fits for my understanding and hopes for where we are going as a spiritual community.

      tol·er·ance   [tol-er-uhns] Show IPA

      1. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.
      2. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own.
      3. interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one’s own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.
      4. the act or capacity of enduring; endurance: My tolerance of noise is limited.
      5. Medicine/Medical, Immunology .
      a. the power of enduring or resisting the action of a drug, poison, etc.: a tolerance to antibiotics.
      b. the lack of or low levels of immune response to transplanted tissue or other foreign substance that is normally immunogenic.


    • Pythia Theocritos

      You pretty much summed up my thoughts on this issue.

  • Firstlady4

    Eloquently written and very timely. I too have been dismayed at the tone I have felt in some of the posts you reference. I think those negative words are brought about by fear of going back to a time of great turmoil in the speaker’s life that she fought valiantly against for the sake of women. It is possible to get fixated with an issue and I feel that this is where the hate comes from. She is fighting a battle that really doesn’t exist anymore and it colors her perception of new issues. I am proud of the words you have written and applaud you for taking a firm non-hateful stance on speaking a great truth. Thank you for reminding us that we have to be what we want to see in others.

  • Shakti_Luna

    Wonderfully written I am so glad you found the strength to stand up for this issue.  There is no room for hate or intolerance in my heart or my spirituality, and it takes those of us standing up for what we feel is right for true change to occur.

  • kenneth

    I don’t see any contradiction whatever in both honoring Z for the good things she’s done in her career while also calling some of her views and actions as reprehensible. I also take great pride and comfort in the fact that the debate is pretty well settled within the larger pagan community. The overwhelming majority who have spoken on the issue have formed a consensus which more or less says its fine for her to believe and practice what she will, but don’t expect us to subsidize it at public events. 

  • Bookhousegal

    I think the screaming wailing tragedy of Z. Budapest is that she basically wrote the Pagan Amazing Grace  and just can’t stand the fact she doesn’t own it,  even if it comes back to her that a ‘transie’  sings it. 

    Then she tries to ‘own’ it and feels ripped off. 

    Backs it up with hate and tired conspiracy theory and her *thing.*   

    Tries, even , to pronounce curses if anyone sings… ‘We all come from the Goddess.. And to Her we shall return…’ 

    You, too, Mz  Budapest. 

    Them’s the breaks.  

    You had something else in mind when you wrote… ‘We *all* Come from the Goddess?’

    It’s a great song that grows up to be bigger than you thought.  

    Our Pagan world would be the poorer for it if you didn’t mean what you said. 

    Give us your blessing, Mz Budapest,  and in return receive our thanks.    This is nothing you ever owned or defined,   but it’s seen many people of the Goddess through many a dark night.

    Even ‘Transies.’ 

    You don’t own it, though.   Mz Budapest.   It’s way past your control, been living, breathing and growing all these many years.     And few people today can really say or need to be told that about anything *good.*   And if I may say so,  you’re just waking up to thinking you can fight the ‘last war’  with it.  

    If you really intended this to curse people,   curse me,  then,  and let’s be done with it.  

    Hoof and horn, hoof and horn,  all that dies shall be reborn.

    We all come from the Goddess.   And to her we shall return.   Like a drop.  Of.   Rain.  

    You don’t own that,  Ma’am.   I thought that was the point. 

    Meanwhile,   let the people sing…  cause…   Dag.   It’s needed.   I do my best with politics, but that song will outlive the both of us.   So there.   I’ll have your curse or blessing.   As Lady wills.  I will *not* have  said ‘curse’  retroactively-applied to people who’d consider you an elder despite yourself.  

    It’s kind of an irony.  I don’t think da Gawdess   agrees with your copyright claim, Mz Budapest,  …or is about to collect royalties on the Pagan community over it.  

    Never mind start saying ‘You can’t say  ‘We all come from the Goddess’  …cause while some are attacking *us*   all the shite that ‘second wave feminists’  thought justified all manner of stuff is coming back,   and who are our ‘matriarchs’  suddenly appearing to go after?    Pagans who ain’t homo-transphobic enough.

    So,  it’s like,  what’s yer price.  You wanna curse someone like it’s 1990,   curse *me.* 
    Or.   Listen to your own song.   Or both.  

    Who do you wanna hurt?  About *that?*  Gods.   If Z Budapest really wants to hurt someone or to have some pound of flesh…hurt *me.*  If that’s what it takes. 

    Cause it’s the *dumbest* thing I’ve heard out of all dumb things just lately. 


    • Ghost

       From what I’ve read on the matter Z Budapest does want to regulate the use of the song but I get the distinct impression that it is more about being compensated for having written the song.

      See, I think of this as pointing to a much larger issue that nobody in the Pagan community seems to want to talk about.

      Pagans, as a community, don’t take care of their Elders.

      Kerry Thornley died on the streets of Atlanta.  Robert Anton Wilson ended up having to sell all of his stuff in order to pay his medical bills.  Isaac Bonewits ended up having to pass the hat more than once because of his end of life expenses.  Those are the ones I know of off the top of my head but I am quite sure that if I kept digging I would find very few examples of people who gave a lot to their tradition and were taken care of by that tradition in turn when they got old.I would be willing to bet money that Z Budapest looked at her budget, realized she can’t support herself, and here we are now.Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that setting Z Budapest up with a small pension and health insurance would make her quit with the crazy talk.  However, I do think that she would most likely be a lot less motivated to try to troll the world and would keep her crazy talk to family and maybe other old people that she meets with once or twice a week(this, by the way, is exactly what happened with my and most people’s grandparents from my experience).

  • zendodeb

    I have always believed that the fastest way to get people with … shall we say, “outdated” … beliefs is to give them a microphone. (Or put a microphone near them when they don’t know it.) Some will agree with them, but most will see them for what they are, out of touch with a larger reality.

    The ironic thing is that the current kerfuffle is reflected in the way the larger society views pagans right now. It was only a handful of years ago that the Veterans Administration was in court trying to defend why Wicca wasn’t really religion and shouldn’t be represented on grave markers in national cemeteries. (And that isn’t even the most horrible example.)