The People Who Aren’t There: Closing Remarks, PantheaCon 2020

The People Who Aren’t There: Closing Remarks, PantheaCon 2020 February 15, 2020

Hello, beautiful creatures.

On Friday 14 February 2020, I gave a presentation at the 26th and final PantheaCon convention, entitled “A Queerness of Divinity: Exploring the Fluidity of Gender and Sexuality in Polytheisms of the Past, Present, and Future.” The first part of my presentation was, I feel, accurately titled “A Crash Course in Gender and Sexuality Studies,” and was largely geared towards explaining the terms and concepts to which I referred throughout the rest of the presentation. The next two parts, “Setting the Wayback Machine” and “Living in the Now,” explored the queerness of gods in both our past and present. Much of the material in these two sections was, of course, drawn from my book Outside the Charmed Circle: Exploring Gender & Sexuality in Magical Practice. The conclusion, “The Future’s So Bright…,” outlined why I feel engaging with these issues is so important to the present and future of Paganism, polytheism, and magical practice.

I’ve given this presentation before, and will do so again at Paganicon in March, but this occasion was special. How could it not be? This was, after all, the Last PantheaCon: a send-off, a farewell, and a wake for a convention unable to escape the shadow of its own past, including the walkout of a substantial number of Pagans of color, a boycott by several Pagan groups and organizations, and its own tempestuous relationship with transphobic “feminist elders.” (Full disclosure: I was one of many people who wrote to the convention in November 2018 asking that one of the presenters, a scholar and writer with deeply problematic ties to trans-exclusionary “radical feminism,” be removed from the program.)

I grappled with the question of whether or not to attend or present at PantheaCon this year. On the one hand, I agree with and support the walkout and boycott of the event by POC, queer people, trans people, and allies. On the other hand, as an author with a brand-new book, declining to attend one of the largest Pagan events of the year would be a disservice to my book, my publisher, and everyone who worked on or believed in my book. On yet a third hand, how could I possibly go to an event which has consistently shown such disregard for the queer community that book is meant to serve, for Pagans of color, and so very many others? It would have been disingenuous to simply go and give a nice little presentation in light of the convention’s history, both recent and less so. Squaring that circle felt impossible.

So, I decided not to square it, and to instead call it out. Below are the closing remarks of my presentation at PantheaCon. I don’t claim they’re perfect, nor that they represent anyone but me: a queer, non-binary transgender witch, writer, and human being doing my best to make the world just the tiniest bit better for all of us.

* * *

As we prepare to part ways and go through the rest of our weekend, attending presentations and rituals and workshops, shopping in the vendor spaces and visiting hospitality suites, I want to ask you all one last favor: I want you to look around you at the spaces you occupy and look for the people who aren’t there.

Specifically, I want you to look for the queer and trans Pagans who aren’t here.

Look for the empty rooms where their hospitality suites would’ve been, the empty seats where they would’ve sat. Look for the empty spaces with the rituals they aren’t leading, the presentations they aren’t giving, the workshops they aren’t teaching, the songs they aren’t singing. Think about the spaces they could occupy, but don’t… because this community doesn’t welcome them.

Queer and trans people have been Pagans, polytheists, and magical practitioners for as long as there’ve been Pagans, polytheists, and magical practitioners. We’ve always been here… and we’ll always be here, whether or not any given community welcomes us or includes us. We have our own magic—the magic we learned to keep ourselves alive in a world that would just as soon we were dead—and all that happens when a community pushes us out, or chooses not to include us, is that the community reduces itself, makes itself less.

And while you’re looking, don’t just look for the spaces where queer and trans people aren’t. Look for the Pagans of color who aren’t here, because the community made it clear they weren’t welcome here. Look for the disabled polytheists for whom our communities are inaccessible. Look for the autistic magicians and witches who are made to feel like strangers in our communities. Look at the ways in which your communities of devotion and practice exclude people like us.

And if what you see makes you uneasy, then I ask you, as a queer, non-binary trans person, as someone who’s been a member of this community for more than two decades, to change it. Look for ways to include us in the community. Ask us how you can do better, listen to the answers we give, and then do something.

Thank you.

* * *

Until next time, dear ones, be the change. ♥

Here’s to new growth, new beginnings. (Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash.)
About Misha Magdalene
Misha Magdalene (Seattle) is a multiclassed, multi-geek, multiqueer witch and sorcerer with a degree in gender studies and a slightly odd sense of humor. Their first book, Outside the Charmed Circle: Exploring Gender and Sexuality in Magical Practice, was published by Llewellyn in January 2020. They're an initiate of multiple lines of traditional witchcraft, including Anderson Feri and Gardnerian Wicca, and have also been known to dabble recklessly in both modern ceremonial magic and grimoiric goetia. They've been blogging since 2001, negotiating the online world since 1987, playing Dungeons & Dragons since 1981, and listening to weird music since birth. They live on occupied Duwamish territory in the Pacific Northwest with their polymath partner, their precocious daughter, far too much coffee-making apparatus, and two adorably destructive black kittens. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and their very own website, or lurking somewhere around the Seattle area, usually hiding behind a cup of coffee. You can read more about the author here.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Badgergrl

    Wonderful and thoughtful approach to a triggering topic! Well done, you!
    As a teacher of young children, the topic of inclusion is near and dear to me. It’s easy to dismiss what others are missing when it’s not happening to you. But POC and non-binary persons get pushed out of all sorts of life experiences. Thank you for saying something.
    If you’re looking for a resource there is an organization called Gender Spectrum out of San Francisco that does wonderful outreach on the topic of gender (obvi).

  • Mama_Librarian

    So proud of you for speaking up. I wish I could have been there.

    • Thank you. I went to the con this year because I felt this needed to be said, in that space, to those people. I also acknowledge that some folks disagree with me, along multiple vectors of disagreement.

  • Gus diZerega

    There are other prespectives. [link redacted by moderator]

    • Misha Magdalene

      Gus, I’m aware there are other perspectives, and I’m quite familiar with yours. However, I have neither the energy nor the inclination to discuss them with you. You’ve demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to engage in conversations in good faith, and a predilection for personal attacks when you disagree with someone. I have no patience for either. Kindly refrain from advertising your blog and your perspectives, which I find misinformed at best and toxic at worst, in my blog’s comments box. Thank you.

    • Gus, I’m aware there are other perspectives, and I’m quite familiar with yours. However, I have neither the energy nor the inclination to discuss them with you. You’ve demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to engage in conversations in good faith, and a predilection for personal attacks when you disagree with someone. I have no patience for either. Please refrain from advertising your blog and your perspectives, which I find misinformed at best and toxic at worst, in my blog’s comments box. Thank you.

    • Gus, I am sorry your article was banned here. I appreciate your perspective. I was not at P-Con this year, haven’t been back in several years. I notice that the article above does not mention a specific group of people who were driven out or driven away from P-Con – women.

      • Ellen, are you seriously trying to claim that there were no women at PantheaCon? Really? That would be news to all the women I saw at the convention.

        No, no, I think I can guess what you meant. You meant your kind of women… TERFs and other transphobes. You’re right, I didn’t mention them being driven away from PantheaCon, but since you brought it up:

        I’m glad. I’m glad TERFs were driven out. I’m glad that transphobes were driven away. I’m glad you lot weren’t given a platform to spread your sexist, homophobic, transphobic, racist garbage. I’m glad you were told “no.” I’m glad you weren’t given the opportunity to hurt women, cis and trans.

        And just to make this clear: Gus’ article wasn’t “banned.” I removed the link because, as I said before, I have no patience with people using my blog’s comments as a venue to spread toxic misinformation. Gus himself is banned, mind you, for much the same reason.

        And now, so are you.

        Now leave, and never come back. This is as much energy as I choose to spend on you.

  • Lisa H.

    *applauds*

  • Thank you, and I’m sorry the community is so inaccessible for you and so many other folks. I’m hopeful that if more voices keep demanding that spaces be accessible to everyone, things will get better. Pollyanna-ish of me, perhaps, but… <3

  • Brianne Raven Wolf

    This was my very first PantheaCon, and of course my last, but I was so happy and honored to have met you in person at Jason and Ari’s hospitality suite for us Patheos Pagan/The Agora bloggers. Unfortunately, I had other commitments that precluded me from attending your workshop. I will be attending PaganiCon again next month, and will be sure to attend your workshops there. I agree with your comments in this article and can resonate with them totally. As you know I have written two blog articles on TERF’s and Transphobes before including the “red tent” issue at PCon a couple years ago. My feeling is that ALL pagan events that say they’re inclusive, should be totally inclusive. Until March, when we meet again, many thanks again for speaking up!