Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Ways In Which We Hurt Each Other

I’m going to stick my two cents in here concerning the almighty row which appears to have broken out in the US at Pantheocon his year, despite the undeniable facts that I am not American and have never attended this gathering.

Last year, for those of you unaware of what went on, there were a lot of very hurt Pagans left licking their wounds when a ritual billed as Dianic revealed, rather late in the day, that by “women only” the organisers of the ritual meant cis women only. That is, women born with 2 X-chromosomes in every cell, who retained the identity of women. Trans- women were informed, apparently, that this ritual was not for them when they pitched up to attend. This was an old-style Dianic affair which did not admit any but cis-gendered women.

The reprisals on both sides seemed quite hectic.

This year, a similar sort of ritual was offered, with the proviso being made, right at the end of the description that it was for “genetic women only”.

Now, leaving aside the question of whether or not a trans person who was born a woman and had chosen to identify as male would have been welcomed by this wording, this (apparent) attempt to avoid the trauma of last year’s ambiguity has seeded a backlash quite as hectic as the original furore.

Let me attempt to lay my cards on the table here: as a double-X woman encultured in this sick society, I have every reason to believe that safe space for women is sometimes in short supply and is, moreover, often needed. Places where women need not feel threatened, diminished or patronised in any way by men are not common in the male-dominated patriarchy we all live within.

Indeed, male privilege and domination is so basic to the fabric of this culture that it is often unperceived, making it hard for those with deep cultural engraining to understand just why some women would feel, well, not quite in a perfectly safe place in the presence of the dominating class. And this includes women born male physically.

As someone who is deeply aware of how the dominant paradigm often reviles or dismisses the concerns – and even the existence!-of women, non-human animals, plants and the land itself, I realise on an almost visceral level that sometimes, members of the non-dominant species (that’s most of us) have a need to gather in settings which feel non-threatening, especially perhaps for something as baring of the soul as spiritual ritual.

On the other hand, people I esteem and respect highly – among them Thorn Coyle – found it needful to sit, or stand, in silent meditation outside the site of this proposed ritual at Pantheocon the other day. And here I’m in danger of sounding as if I’m contradicting myself, for I fully empathise with those silent protestors, too.

(I would really recommend you go here to read Thorn’s deeply moving take on the affair.)

For who knows, unless they’ve been there themselves, the deep wounds a person who identifies with a gender not of the culturally-approved binary type lives with, all the time? Attacks upon people of trans-, bi-, homo- or just other-sexuality are the order of the day in probably the majority of countries on this planet today. Who can bear the pain of being told you’re not a real woman, man…whatever, because of the way you were born or the way you look or the soul you have taken the time to commune with? This is insupportable viciousness, and very common in this culture.

So were Thorn and companions right to hold silent vigil before the doors to the ritual space? Yes, they were, in my opinion.

And was Z. correct to want to provide a safe space for those not quite comfortable with the dominant gender, however configured, and to clarify that proviso? Yes, again.

Both actions were, as I feel it, correct actions.

Moreover, something which seems to have been missed in all the outrage, however justified, is this: both groups were rightly protesting the deadly presence of the over-culture, which makes insane, makes sick in the soul, and which damages the living - and indeed the no longer living - in so many, many ways.

May the Ancestors take notice, and shower blessings and healing upon all who suffered here.

Pic: Through my front door