When I was initiated it looked like the old heteronormative cisgender ideals of man initiates woman and woman initiates man were slowly being phased out.
Fast forward twenty years and here we are still arguing over the same tired old subject.
As Wiccans we scoff at other religions who insist on the written information being continually right and valid whatever new evidence and ethics shines a light on. Yet barely seventy years on from the repealing of the witchcraft act, our religion is already drowning in unnecessary dogma.
There are several arguments for keeping initiations cross gender, the first being it’s always been done this way. I think we can all see why a pin needs to be stuck in that bubble. Tradition is beautiful, blind faith when we can see a better way is not.
For many years the argument was based in polarity. The gender distinction between the God (male) and the Goddess (female) created an energy current which was essential to initiation.
Then the argument went down the sexual attraction line. You were supposed to have a sexual current with your initiator.
But what happens if you’re gay?
What happens if you’re asexual?
What happens if you really want to be initiated by someone you wouldn’t want to have sex with for whatever reason? Or let’s flip it… you want to be initiated by someone who doesn’t have a sexual interest in you.
It all seems a bit silly to me.
We no longer have the same beliefs when it comes to sexuality and gender. I don’t need a penis to draw down the God and I don’t need a vagina to be a woman.
I also don’t think Same Sex Initiation should be limited to whether you identify as gay or bi/ pansexual.
We know Alex Sanders initiated men; and yet whilst we claim him as one of the founders of our tradition, we reject a chunk of his downline. Men he initiated himself. Oftentimes men he loved dearly.
For what? “Tradition”?
I’ve looked hard at Gardnerian tradition and tried to work out why cross gender initiation was a thing in the first place; especially when Gardner clearly said mothers could initiate sons and father’s initiate daughters. He even said a woman could strap on a sword and play the role of the High Priest at any point. This suggests Same Sex Initiation can happen if it’s a woman initiating another woman.
Was Gardner homophobic? Are we enforcing a tired old tradition which doesn’t suit us based on one man’s homophobia in 1953?
Not necessarily his own.
Remember when the witchcraft act was repealed and Gardner was growing his new religion, homosexual acts between men were still illegal in the UK. You could practise witchcraft, but you couldn’t have sex with another man without risking imprisonment and being labelled a sex offender.
Gardner was advocating men being naked in the same room together. What he couldn’t do was allow any instance of sexual energy between men. Not if he wanted to stay within the law. The sexual element of early Gardnerian witchcraft meant he had to be careful how his practise was perceived.
I believe the boy – girl – boy – girl standing around the circle and the Same Sex Initiation was part of this rather than for any esoteric reason.
When Alex Sanders burst onto the witchcraft scene with his own brand of witchcraft homosexuality was no longer illegal which meant it was no longer a concern if men initiated men.
Therefore, Alex himself initiated men where he had a specific connection to them.
Some of the people we consider to be elders or movers and shakers today have Same Sex Initiation in their uplines. Often the same people who are against the practise are quite happy to include them in initiatory spaces.
There are many people, including myself, who are willing to give Same Sex Initiations. But we won’t start doing so until the wider community accepts them. Which is frustrating because it takes people to start doing so and then throwing their arms out and saying, “Here are my Same Sex Initiates, are you going to accept them or not?” in order to create change.
For me it’s too much of a risk to ask from a dedicant. Mostly because they have no idea how the Wiccan community works until they’re in it and can’t make an educated decision on whether they’re prepared to fight for their right to exist.
There’s rarely a time an initiator of the ‘right’ gender can’t be found. If this has happened I’d question whether that’s a coven you want to join when no one from the community is willing to stand in for them.
In many ways it seems unnecessary then to rock the boat when you don’t have to.
I’ve seen what having to question the validity of their initiation does to people. I would not wish that on anyone.
But whilst no one is making that first step for these important ethical reasons I think it’s key this conversation continues until Same Sex Initiation becomes a valid choice for initiates. Not just because they’re gay or transgender or non-binary. But because the person they chose to do the bulk of their training with was the same gender as them.
We need to keep having this conversation. Validating Same Sex Initiation is the right thing to do for the future of the tradition.