Duality and Diversity: Gender at Pantheacon

The Con went on, bringing us to Sunday night, and the Morrigan devotional ritual: "Call of the Battle Raven." Several people approached me after classes or in the hallways to ask if the ritual was open to all. One woman wanted to make sure she did not need a pre-existing, highly personal relationship with the Morrigan. The other inquiries came from men. I assured all of them that the ritual was open to whoever felt called to come. The last inquiry came while I was almost at the ritual itself. A man asked if the ritual was "female only." I looked him in the eye and said, "I am not female only, and neither is this ritual!"

Monday morning, I was relating this, which I thought was just a funny little story, to a couple of Dianic Witches whom I honor and respect. Then it came out: people were asking me about the Morrigan ritual being open because of what transpired Saturday night. There had just been a meeting, which I'd seen fliers for, about "Gender Discrimination at PantheaCon." Many things have already been written about this topic. I will try not to rehash too much of what my brothers and sisters have already said. Ruth Barrett, whose work, like Z Budapest's, was so important to my teenage spiritual formation, related some of her experiences at the meeting, which she attended, despite having nothing to do with the ritual in question. I will leave it to her to tell the tale. Trying to have an important, nuanced conversation as the vending area was starting to close shop, left too much in the "we need to talk more" realm. What I want to say is this: her response was strong, and heartfelt, and respectful. I do believe she is trying to walk her talk, whether I understand her fully or not. She is a woman whose legacy I respect.

Ruth Barrett, Wendy Griffin, and other Dianics work a lot with women's blood mysteries and uterine magic. Despite being in their book, a "woman born woman," there is no way in which I relate to this, nor have I ever, even having tried valiantly, albeit briefly, in a women's coven in my early 20s. My menarche was a cause of anger because it made me late to a theater audition. It never made me feel more in touch with the moon and tides. Yeah. I'm queer like that. Polarity as a binary reality makes no sense to me theologically or literally.

We are all connected, not separated out. Duality—the division for love's sake—is a teaching tool, a construct, a helpful way to think about things sometimes, a lot of fun at other times, and a stumbling block in still others. It does not reflect the deeper reality that I, as a Pagan mystic, touch in all the times I remember myself. When I remember myself, I remember the world, and the world is whole.

One facet of this conversation that could use an entire article is the idea of privilege. People who have been oppressed in the past, and are oppressed still in various ways, often have trouble realizing that they are now operating from a place of privilege, however tenuous that feels. Ciswomen sometimes feel that women who started life as biological males have male privilege ingrained into them. Though in some cases male enculturation may be true, in many other cases, the trans people I know were such maligned misfits in their early years that they got very little use out of any purported privilege. And now? How many women's only spaces are afforded to transwomen? How much opportunity is there for them to revel in their femaleness with other females? To answer Z Budapest's recent reprehensible comments to this linked blog, to have fought to be female, down to changing one's identity and one's body in order to be better seen as a woman, does indeed make one a woman in my book. At least as much of a woman as I, who regardless of my gender identity, would be welcomed into "woman born woman only" space.

In Kissing the Limitless, I write about the Divine Twins, born of the Cosmic Zero that is God Herself. They struggle against one another, wrestling, filled with life, one polarity seeking dominance over the other. Finally, the struggle turns to embrace. They kiss. These Twins make love, and together form something entirely new. Many magical systems call this figure the Divine Androgyne. It is my belief and experience that, polarized as some of us may be or feel, we all have that androgyne as potential within ourselves. The Mystery is thus: we can all birth something heretofore unknown.

3/4/2011 5:00:00 AM
  • Pagan
  • Numinous and Concrete
  • GLBT
  • gender
  • PantheaCon
  • Ritual
  • Sexuality
  • Transgender
  • Women
  • Paganism
  • T. Thorn Coyle
    About Kevin Juhasz
    Kevin Juhasz is a content manager with a Colorado-based marketing company and the owner of <a href="https://www.thewritecontent.net/about">The Write Content</a>, which provides writing and editing services. He has more than 25 years of writing and editing experience with websites, newspapers, magazines, trade publications and more. Kevin has covered news, sports, entertainment, technology and a wide variety of other subjects.
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