Yesterday, I posted the following quote on my author FB feed:
I wrote it because I was angry and tired. Not a year goes by, it seems, when an Elder in the Pagan community doesn’t say something derogatory about Trans or gender non-conforming persons. Many have no problem telling a Trans woman that she’s not allowed in a women’s Circle. Many say they don’t believe in Trans identity, period. It baffles and infuriates me.
Come Sunday, a number of people have planned to use my quote in a meme meant to direct this kind of collective anger at the Elders who are excluding and harming Trans members of our community.
At first, I was on board. Someone has to make some noise. If we all take the centrist point of view, nothing gets accomplished. This work needs more cis-people to say “NO. THIS IS WRONG AND UNACCEPTABLE.”
But after some thought, I’m starting to think otherwise. Not because I no longer stand by what I said–I still do. But because, as a friend pointed out, my own feelings of pointed outrage expressed in a meme without proper context are at risk of becoming a kind of “pitchforks and torches” rage, devoid of the truth behind the roots. It runs the risk of becoming divisive and unproductive. I don’t like that.
So let me better explain:
I’m steeped in a community in which we accept that gender is fluid. I have had Witchkin on the verge of Transition weep into my arms, as they faced their fears of physical pain and possible rejection by loved ones. I’ve celebrated with Transkin as they embraced their new bodies, pronouns, names, and lives. I’ve held their hands as they’ve been undermined, insulted, mis-gendered, or told they would “never be real wo/men.” And I’ve seen them hold their heads high and continue to shine through the storms, wielding God/ess with a power I will never have.
I don’t mean to sound like a savior. I don’t save anyone. I make mistakes. There’s lots of room for me to be a better ally. I get called out for it and I’m thankful for it. But I do bear witness and after what I’ve seen, the thought that any of the brave people in my community would be ostracized by anyone for simply embracing their true gender/s fills me with a rage that I can’t temper.
To these Elders who won’t accept these people into their Circles or hearts:
I personally cannot accept an Elder who cannot accept the very people I love and serve. I am a cis-Priestess in a community that loves and affirms all genders. One of the tenets of our work is to be “A Pillar of Magickal Support” for the people around us. Many of those people are Trans or gender non-conforming.
As a Priestess who needs love and support from Elders, herself, how can I look to you as an Elder if you can’t support me supporting them?
How can I follow you if you don’t accept the very people I support via my Priestesshood? What could I possibly learn from you if what I most need to learn is how to be a better ally? How can I look to you for help them navigate Magick and Spirit through their Transitions if you pretend that what they are experiencing isn’t real? Would you accept me into your Circles but tell them to wait outside? If so, take me off your list. I don’t want to go where my kin can’t follow.
How can I look into the faces of my beloved Trans Witchkin and say to them, “This is my Elder. This is who I learn from. But their way isn’t open to you. They don’t accept you.” I’d be failing these people.
I can’t. And won’t.
As a leader myself, the greatest thing I can hope for is that I’m leaving something behind for others to pick up and take forward. Aka, a legacy. I can’t imagine these Elders want anything less. They too want to leave a legacy, but through this narrow, hateful thinking they are alienating themselves from the future of Paganism. They won’t be remembered solely for the good they’ve done. Their legacy will be marked by the hurt they caused when they stood on the wrong side of history.
My community and my Priestesshood has no room for Transphobia.
My call to action is no longer about sharing a meme, but sharing your words. Post your own blog about why you cannot accept Eldership from a Transphobic person. Feel free to share mine if it helps, but include your words, too. For those of us who won’t remain centrist, we need to speak out…not with pitchforks and torches, but true heart and soul.
A Transphobic Elder is no Elder of mine. I hope these Elders understand why.