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.
You brought a tear to my eye! Thank you for your insight. I really hope that people realize that any sort of “phobia” is fear. What do they fear…why do they fear? I welcome all to our circles. Makes no difference to me or the community that I serve as to what “gender” a PERSON identifies with! What matters is their hearts…not their gentiles.
<3 <3 <3 <3 xoxoxo
Thank you for this.
You have once again found the words to extress what I was feeling. I would be proud to call you an ‘elder’ of mine. I definitely learn much from you.
You’re very kind, Deborah! Thank you!
The only people who are my Elders are the ones I claim as such. I can’t imagine learning anything from people who are small-minded or bigoted. As a Traditional Witch, I have heard the arguments, but I don’t buy them. Maybe a certain Tradition doesn’t accept certain people, but not any Tradition I would belong to. My tradition is very gender fluid, and would not preclude anyone who fit our style from being accepted.
Just because someone’s an old Witch, doesn’t make them my Elder. After all, I’m an old witch, and I have eleven more years in the Craft before I’d even consider calling myself an elder in my own tradition (even though I am the senior priestess of that same tradition…we have a sort of “rule.” Thirty years in the Craft, and *maybe* you’re an elder.) It’s a title that is bestowed, not taken. I pretty much believe that about any title; I’m not too into titles, anyway
By the same notion, just because a person calls themselves a Priestess doesn’t mean you are one, or that you are MY Priestess. (I’m definitely not talking about you, Courtney!) I’m thinking of the example of a 20 year old pagan girl in a public group who insisted she was the “High Priestess” of the town, and insisted people who had been in the Craft since she was a child refer to her as “My Priestess.” I thought it was a bit laughable.
Oh, good Lord….if I made my Coven call me “My Priestess,” they’d pee their pants laughing. (Maybe I should….hmm….) Thanks for your support!
Yes, I think we would be laughing too hard to get the entirety of “My Priestess” out…. but i totally think we should start doing that- just to be fun. 😉 lol!
There is more to being an elder than time lived or invested. Elders are not self-appointed either. And any person who refuses to accept nature’s children is definitely not an elder. Imho of course. Love and peace.
Love and peace to you too, Lee!
What they fear is, very literally, the penis.
They were shamed because of their vaginas, taught they were dirty because of their vaginas. Their wounds and pain are rooted in their bodies, just like the wounds and pain of many trans people are rooted in their bodies.
They made a decision to claim, value, and honour their bodies. I have learned much from these people over the years. They are my elders, and I do not hesitate to call them out when I see them acting from places of hurt and fear rather than places of love. I also work very hard to ensure that when I call them out, I myself am speaking from a place of love and desire for healing.
Fyi, I am gender queer. I am gender queer and keep my distance from trans communities because I have been too often verbally abused for not hating my vagina.
There are unhealed hurts and wounds on both sides. There are also vocal members on both sides slinging hate and rage at each other and demanding things be 100% how they want rather than meeting with love and compassion and holding compassion EVEN WHEN WHAT THEY OTHER NEEDS MAY CONFLICT WITH WE NEED.
There is another. We do not need to attack each other and tear ourselves apart. We do not need to shame each other over our hurts. We CAN stand in compassion and healing. If we choose too.
Correction. Typing from my phone and missed a typo. The sentence in caps makes no sense as it should be: even when what the other needs conflicts with what we need.
My apologies for any confusion.
Hello and BB! I have been hurt and have done the work to heal those wounds. It is for that very reason I was able to stand hand in hand with Ruth Barrett at PSG several years ago to pledge to our community and then the community at large via a press conference from PSG that WE would work for inclusion. I was hurt by the exclusion from the main women’s ritual at PSG but choose instead to speak from a place of love and as a Priestess of the Goddess. I was further hurt when Ruth blasted trans inclusion in MichFest and now in our GLBTQIA community organizations. And as a Priestess, I know that to speak up is something we need to do when we see something wrong or need to help others. Part of our work is for Justice for our people and to heal but it is also enabling more hurt when the “Elders” do actions like this. I so tire of this issue being such a point of contention but we must continue to do our work and not give up even when we are tired or hurt by anyone, on either side. I was trained that a Witch is as good as her/his word…And as that Witch, I will still work towards inclusion, which might mean calling out Ruth, Macha, or any other Elders who use their position to try to hurt others. It might also mean silencing or giving counsel to Trans Women who are just as hurt and might want to lash out in retaliation. Evil unchecked is evil itself. I choose to be in balance and to honor my Word… may Love and Healing prevail in this, our community, as we move forward. SMIB
Hi Melissa! Thank you so much for stopping by and for continuing to speak up. Blessed be!
Maybe the caps was in Divine order! Thank you for your kind words and for speaking up.
Oh dear, yes, thank you so much for this! I am a trans woman and moving in spiritual circles can get really difficult sometimes and we trans people need all the support we can get.
Actually I sometimes choose to learn from people, even though they are cissexist. It’s painful, but sometimes there is no other choice. But obviously I can’t trust them completely.
Thank you for your kind words. I’m sorry you’ve had a difficult time. Please know the support and love is out there. Hopefully it will continue to flow to you.
A *phobic Elder is no Elder of mine, full stop. Fear and Love cannot coexist, and I expect my Elders to act in Love.
😀 Thank you for reading!
So who are these idiot supposed ‘Elders’? Speaking as a trans-woman, Alexandrian High Priestess and right royal argumentative whatnot I’d love to know. My initiations are recognised by members of Alex’s original London coven and there certainly isn’t anyone else’s opinion that I give a fig for.
Hi Rosie! It’s been quite the stir over in the States for the last couple of days…that’s for sure! Glad most of it blew past you. 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend!
I hope it’s still OK to admit to not understanding some aspects of the Transgender experience…because I don’t. I’m, a Bi woman with some solid connections to my inner Warrior-male. I think that a man who has searched his/her soul and thought long about what it means to be a woman might be more “woman” then some of us born that way. Ditto for wo/men. I would not exclude such people automatically from the “Wo/men’s mysteries”. Its would also depend on what that person’s energy felt like–that might be a factor I have to say.
As a cis-woman myself, I certainly won’t ever be able to understand all aspects of a Trans-woman’s experience! How can we? That’s not who we are and not what we’ve known! I agree with you–Transwomen have taught me so very much of the nature of what it means to be a woman. I am very thankful for that. Thank you for stopping by!
Remember, there are at least two sides to an issue. If you truely come from a place of love you will not judge without more information.
I absolutely have a place to judge through the lens of my own experience. When the people I have vowed to serve have been hurt due to exclusion and violent words against them, yes–I will speak up. I did not single out or personally attack anyone in my blog as my policy is to address issues, not individuals. There is an issue with Elders denying the existence and experiences of the members of my community and yes, my speaking up does indeed come from a place of love.
Not sure I like this kill all Elders speak here or anywhere else. I have been following this whole story and I see both sides. I think that brave Pagan Goddess Centered transwomen deserve respect and that any human in any form carries the Goddess within them. I have been initiated into different groups through my long Wiccan/Pagan life. I have had trans priests and Cis Gay Priests and Lesbian High Priests….the list is long. I think we all have the right and the power to be anything in this work. However, I also think people can and should have the right to do what they want. This is not a Christian “church” where everyone comes to be included. There are mystery rites for women, blood rituals that are ancient as there are sacred brotherhood rituals for cis males which include use of fluids…naturally produced by these types of men. I think that coming out with this idea to put up such articles as this one and others circulating on the web is bad for all of us. What it does is cause anger, hatred and division among people that are already in minorities in this world and because of that are always in danger of being harmed …even in America. I don’t think treats of harm should be tolerated but I also do not think gossip should be either. Everyone should just stop and let freedom for all forms of our type of worship exist.
I did not say anything about “killing the Elders,” in my blog, nor responding to gossip, but responding to specific messages of hate toward members of my community. As a Priestess, I have a responsibility to do so. I also believe I have done so both respectfully and objectively, but I am not going to sugar-coat a response to those who have hurt those I’ve vowed to serve. Thank you for reading the blog.
I was being glib and exaggerative. Sorry if you didn’t understand that when I said kill all elders. You are not aware of how insulting you are it seems. I have read your blog.
You call yourself a Priestess and in reading your work I find I cannot understand why. I am not sure you are experienced enough as a Pagan or Witch to understand what the words you use really mean. Elder…Priestess. …
We are all allowed to judge and if course speak our minds. However you are getting and will continue to get backlash because you use blanket statements without explanation. You have, in my view become the mouth piece for a lynch mob. I fear both your reputation and your search for attention will backfire . Seems this is an odd fight for you to take on. I do suppose it was a ploy to sell more books.
Please stop. Just find another way to get attention. Our community has enough problems.
Thank you for the clarification, Cassandra. 🙂
Thank you for this. Wise words sister! Blessed Be!
This is why i dont view you as my elder…
Im actually going to share this to my group page as well because this is an opportunity…not as a what some people in here will view as a passive agressive attack ..but as an opportunity to both teach a lesson and be a student…
Im not saying this as a trans person or even as an lgbt..because i am neither…however..i do love all my brothers and sisters of the craft..not just because of their gender identity..butbecause. Of their humanity…
With that being said..i will now get to the core of what i want to convey…that any time a community takes away somesones humanity…be it through ostracism, be it through dehumanization, be it through bullying, both overt and covert…there is something very wrong with this picture…
I appreciate that this article was written ..because it gives me an opportunity to adress my feelings on these issues…its great that this article was written..however i feel its also important to not just give lip service..talk the talk..but also walk the walk…if one sees that their fellow member is being hurt or abused by any of this..dont just stand there..because its easier to not say anything..or even worse participate in the behavior and pretend that the injustice is being done…stand up for what is right…(This person is STILL A HUMAN BEING WITH VERY REAL FEELINGS AND IT IS WRONG TO ATTACK THEM BEING PHYSICALLY EMOTIONALLY AND SPIRIT)
See what i just said…? THIS IS A HUMAN BEING.. With that being said…having been a “scorched broom” it gives me an opportunity to teach this lesson.. I will because of my past experience go up to anyone who is suffering…i dont necessarily need to say a word…but i will convey simply by my presence that i am here for that person..and i UNDERSTAND how that person feels..and if i am allowed..a hug..a nod..an acknowledgement….im here for you… In fact,you can cry if you wish….please let go of the pain…because you deserve to be loved…
I hope ive made my point here….someday i hope to confront my attackers…with my held very high…because i know of what i speak of is the truth…not just my truth…but a universal truth…
Everyone deserves to be loved and accepted in their own way.
And i truly mean that..
This whole discussion saddens me.that we have come to character assassination and threats to our lives and livelihoods; that what I will say here will be interpreted as phobic or hateful or contrary to your beliefs in a way that you woul disinherit me is NOT how I want to describe my pagan community as a whole. But I have been misunderstood before and suspect that I can and will be again.
I am a Womyn. To me that means I was born in to this work with a vulva, a clitoris, a vagina/womb. I have progesterone naturally flowing through my body. I bled every month up until the age of 55 when I had a hysterectomy. I went through the years of wearing a big thick pad badly held over my vagina that slipped out of place running and jumping, cramps that sent me to bed for a whole day, tampons that popped out when I sneezed and vaginal exams that were no less than humiliating and very uncomfortable. And for those who are with me here, that is only the half of it. But…a simple definition. It brings with it its own Mystery. Its own Path.
There are other people who were women born women who achingly were not born in to that form, and in fact were born in Exactly the opposite body from the one they identified with. That is its own Mystery. It’s own Path. I am not afraid of that path. But it is different than my own and, yes, when I am in ritual, I choose to be in ritual with Womyn who share the same mystery as my own described above. Period. I’m NOT telling you you are less than, scary, wrong, evil, or bad.
It is simply my choice. I ask only that my choice be respected. If you choose to have ritual with only trans women, I will respect that.
I know what it feels like to be excluded. I’m a Womyn. We have been excluded in some way all our lives. I’m also a lesbian. I have had good friends in my time that excluded me from interaction with their children because of that. Very painful.
There ARE traditions that include everyone in their ritual acts. Bkessed Be!
That is not my personal path. You do not have the right to vilify me not I you for your path. None, Nada!
We need to stop this accusation sh*t and vilification and threats and ruining of reputation and smug (there I said it) refuting of each other as “you’re not MY leader” crap! If it’s not how you would do something then it’s not how you would do something. Because some else does it differently from you it DOES NOT MEAN THEY ARE EVIL AND YOU ARE NOT! STOP IT!! We all come from the Goddess. Choose a tradition that you can support NOT a tradition that you can pick on and vilify. Your words will come back to you.
And Mellisa…I have known RUTH Barrette for a very long time. I doubt very seriously that what you may have interpreted from her as ” inclusion” did not mean you would be invited to one of her rituals. I do believe however that she has for years tried to find ways to build a bridge between the trans and Dianic tradition and that you, in this misinterpretation may have burned s bridge between the two of you that could have greatly helped you in seeking to create a trans women myster path. I pray for the mending of that bridge.
So once again I say STOP! This junior high school girl and boy fighting, gossip,lie-telling and vilification does not serve us.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am sorry you have faced exclusion simply because of who you love. That’s unacceptable and never should have happened to you. We certainly share the pain of menstrual cycles that send us to bed for whole days! Until I stopped drinking caffeine, I lost 36 hours a month to my Moon Time. Eek….so glad I figured out the culprit. I ask you to remember that my blog post contains no character assassination and certainly no threats, nor have I participated in either. One of the principles in my Witchcraft community is to “Discuss ideas, not individuals.” My blog criticizes the actions of those who exclude Trans people, but does not criticize, vilify, or even mention specific individuals. You may also notice that one of the reasons I posted it was because my quote was taken out of context for a “pitchforks and torches” rhetoric that moved away from my initial message. My quote seems smug to you, but I don’t feel smug. I feel tired, sad, and angry, just as I mentioned. I have a responsibility to a community which is predominantly queer with many Trans people in it. It would be irresponsible of me to accept Eldership from individuals who do not accept or respect them. That is my right–no Elder, including myself, is entitled to acceptance from the next generation. We have to earn it by looking to the future and supporting their needs. Again, thank you for reading the blog. Blessed be.
Terrifically said. I agree with you. Enough is enough. As I stated elsewhere we have enough hatred thrown our way as Pagans and Witches to have more coming at each other from inside! I also find this upsetting. Very much so.
I agree. But, like it or not there is no way to change every dogmatic group, even in a community as open as WICCA. People organize into religious circles for the purpose of growth and finding those who seek to believe a similar creed. I don’t believe the answer is to shame traditionalists into silence. I feel the solution is to disjoin with them and join more accepting groups. When that happens enough traditionalists will either reexamine their arguments, or become lonely as the world changes around them.
That being said, I’m a solitary. I find peace and acceptance from myself and that is enough. As a person who was harrassed and demonized in my conservative part of the country, I put little trust in religious organizations anyway. I understand if many would disagree with me.
Thank you for your comment. I believe I am following your notion of disjoining from some and joining (or in my case, forming) more accepting groups. I’m sorry you’ve struggled with harassment and demonization and am glad you’ve found the solitary path as being peaceful and fulfilling. Thank you again for your comment.
Disrespect for legitimate elders runs rampant throughout the Pagan communities. Born intersexed, having done the research that restored the roles of transsexual priestesses in EVERY ancient Goddess tradition and having once been a major activist for trans civil rights, I have been labelled by some as transphobic. The current reaction is a dog whistle one with no one actually listening to anyone else and smacks, to me, of a PC McCarthyism as in “are you now or have you ever been” with zero room left for personal growth.
These issues are vastly more complicated than most realize. The author should check their own ageism before casting stones at those of another generation who fought and won most of the gains women made in the past fifty odd years.
Hi Rev Platine,
Thank you for stopping by. I’ll admit that I do not know your work, but if you say you’ve been an activist for Trans Civil rights, I applaud you. Many responses have said similar things to, “These issues are vastly more complicated,” and of course, every situation has 8,000 sides. However, I stand by what I said. For the work that I do in the community and the role that I have in it (for many I am and Elder, but not to all. This is not because of my age or experience but because I’m not entitled to the Elder role with all people), I cannot accept Eldership from those who cannot embrace and support those who I embrace and support. It’s as simple as that. Thank you for your response.
I keep thinking that so much of this has to do with language. Like the word woman. I am nonbinary. Neither man nor woman. I was designated female at birth due to my lack of a penis. It say lack of penis because at that time everyone born without a penis was called a girl regardless of what other genitals may or may not have been present. Anyway.
I do not attend events intended for women. And it sucks. I would very happily attend blood mystery rituals with others who have bled. But not if I have to pretend to be other than my authentic self in order to do so. I keep wondering why we insist on gendering magic so much. Menstruation does not define gender. I know men who bleed. There are men who become pregnant and give birth. Why is there no space for those of us who are not women yet bleed?
Once upon a time I found refuge and safety in womyn’s organizations and with those who identified as womyn. But then gender identity became the thing and it all is so messed up that I walked away.
At this point what I see are a bunch of people wrapped in their own wounds and screaming at other wounded people because they hurt. Yet why is the Catholic church immune? They have caused create harm to both of our communities. Is it perhaps because it is easier to scream at a small group of cis womyn who worked for decades to carve a tiny bit of safety for themselves in a hateful hostile world than it is to challenge a large patriarchal institution?
While I do not agree with excluding any woman from a ritual intended for women, I do understand where Ruth and others like her are coming from. I hope that someday soon the language will change so the rituals are described not as being for women, or for women who bleed, but perhaps as being for all people who menstruate.
I have a young friend (they are early 20’s, I am mid 40’s). We both are dfab fem nonbinary, we both have walked away from the trans community because there is clearly no place for us there, we both believe that the hurts of members on each side of this war are what is fuelling it. I truly hope that the members of our community will stop firing the bullets of patriarchy at each other. Meanwhile I shall continue to be grateful for my tiny community in which we struggle and argue and do our best to heal rather than blame each other for wounds created by the larger world. I am grateful to be able to say what I need without fear that someone will threaten to throw acid in my face if they don’t like what I have to say. I am grateful to have a safe place in which to deal with the hurts caused to me, a gender variant person, by the trans community. And I shall be forever grateful to those who, many decades ago, paved the way for my healing both today and in years past.
If ever I meet a perfect elder I shall maybe consider disowning my imperfect elders. Until then, I take what I need and release the rest.
Debi, thank you so very much for this thoughtful, compassionate response. I am sorry you’ve had such a difficult time with the various communities. If ever you’re in NYC, drop me a line and please come and join us for a Circle sometime.
I am a female-born-womyn. I have every right to gather and celebrate my Divine Mysteries with other like womyn without the insistence that a trans person has the “right” to participate. This is not terrorism, hatred, or any other -ed or -ism. Insisting that you enter MY world is. Please focus on creating your own rituals, gatherings, and togetherness. Shifting your focus is a positive way to channel this insistent energy into your own power for yourselves.
I don’t believe you’ve read my blog, carefully. If you re-read it, you’ll see that I too am a female-born woman (or womyn), and I have a right to not attend rituals in which my Trans sisters are not welcomed. I also have a right to not follow Eldership that does not support and include all women. I *will* continue to focus on creating rituals, gatherings, and togetherness that support all women. You would be welcome at ours. However, I will not be attending yours if I cannot bring my Trans kin.
You certainly have the right to do so. As a person assigned female at birth, I certainly do not feel entitled to your world. However, you do not have a right to be called a person’s elder for any reason, either. If someone was holding a ritual where womyn of color, bisexual, lesbian, etc were being excluded, they certainly have the right to do so, but that does not mean that people are supposed to be silent about it either. Not every elder is my elder. I am sure not every elder in the community is your elder either.
Thank you, Auryn, but I’m not sure you read my blog all the way through. I too am a person assigned female at birth. I also said that I’m not entitled to be anyone else’s elder. It’s difficult for me to adequately respond to comments when I’m not entirely convinced the person making them has thoroughly read the blog.
My response was aimed at Yemaya. I understand that you are cisgendered, and I do appreciate what you have said on the blog. She said that transpeople should not feel “entitled to her world.” I am genderqueer (but assigned female at birth). My response is that I do not want to be a part of “her world,” but that Yemaya should not expect not to be called out for transphobic (or other phobic) actions or words.. I would actually be proud to call you Elder when you feel ready for the title. However, I think that my response may have been muddied by the fact that I did not address her, and the fact that my wording was vague.
My apologies–my version of WordPress doesn’t tell me when it’s a new comment or when it’s a reply to another comment. Thank you for the clarification and for speaking up–the fault was mine!