However, the topic of coming together and forming a community is within the scope of this blog, as is holding to one's own truths and needs.
This year's Pantheacon, held in February, was sort of a breaking point in this issue. I'll sum it up, in case you have no idea what I'm talking about. A ritual was to be held for "genetic women only" -an obvious exclusion to transgendered women. A silent protest was held outside the room where this ritual was taking place, peacefully protesting the exclusion and the hatefilled response to the protest. Here is an overview of the event from the Pagan Newswire Collective; here is a blog post by T. Thorn Coyle, who led the protest against the ritual, and her words prior to P-Con; and here is a post by Lady Yeshe Rabbit, who after this event broke with the Dianic Tradition to forge the Pan-Dianic Tradition.
This past week at Pagan Spirit Gathering, sponsored by Circle Sanctuary, there was further discussion and healing made in regards to this issue. Here is a link to an overview of the discussion as well as video of discussion between Selena Fox, of Circle Sanctuary, Ruth Barret, Dianic High Priestess, and Melissa Murry, transgendered Priestess. The discussion included the topic of respect, not just for transgendered women (who are excluded more-so than transgendered men, as men's rituals seem to primarily be "self-identified men" rituals,) but for women's blood mysteries, too (which is why transgendered women are excluded: because they have not experienced these mysteries that are tied to the female biological experience.) As part of the progress made, next PSG is to hold a "mysteries ritual and Rite of Passage for transgendered individuals."
Admittedly, as I followed this issue, like many others, I found myself frustrated, angry, dumbfounded, and sad. So many hateful words and comments have been thrown about in regards to this. While it may seem simple to ask "why," the answers are so complicated due to the emotional involvement of those concerned with this issue.
Many Pagans came to Paganism to escape oppression, be it real or perceived, from others, be it family or large religious institutions. Becoming involved in Paganism is also quoted as feeling like "coming home." So, when one feels any sort of exclusitory response from those that one perceives to be like family, if only in the larger sense through shared struggles and common experiences, from the only community in which they have ever felt any sort of true belonging and acceptance within, a deep emotional response can only be expected. I'm not just referring to transgendered individuals being excluded from female only rituals, but to cisgendered women who were being told their female only rituals were wrong.
Few of us were born into these beliefs and practices, and we are all here for our own reasons. Part of being a community is not just making sure there is a place for everyone at the table, but making sure there is room for individuals to tackle their own spiritual needs in a safe place as they see fit, too. In other words, in making sure that everyone is included we must ensure that this inclusion allows for those individuals who need exclusive places to heal and find their wholeness,
while still respecting the larger inclusivity of the Pagan community.
That is what this issue boils down to in my eyes: respect.
This issue has not been continuously addressed with respect, not for the individuals of our community, not for the individual needs and experiences of the members of our community, and not for our Community as a larger entity. This has changed now, this discussion as PSG is proof of it (and I'm not surprised in took the involvement of Selena Fox for this issue to be addressed politically.) I only hope that this continues, that other issues, as they arise, will be addressed in this manner: with focus on the individual people and their feelings, working toward the best solution for all involved as well as the community.