Monday, February 28, 2011

Dianic Rites, Gender Identification and Gender Essentialism

At a recent womyn's ritual to Lilith at Pantheacon, several transgender MtFs were turned away at the door and told that the ceremony was only for "women born women."  While the organizers and the event sponsors work toward a mutually agreeable compromise and consensus, the blogosphere continues to hum with the questions of what happens when the right to gender identity and freedom of association and religious expression run headlong into each other. And though there has been a great deal of heat, we have also seen a fair amount of enlightening discourse.

Anya Kless, a priestess of Lilith, offered commentary on Fruit of Pain, and received a rather heated response from legendary witch and elder Z Budapest.  Budapest's post follows, as does my response.  There is a great deal more discussion on Anya's blog regarding this and many other topics: if you haven't bookmarked Fruit of Pain yet, you really should.

Z Budapest in italics.


This struggle has been going since the Women’s Mysteries first appeared. These individuals selfishly never think about the following: if women allow men to be incorporated into Dianic Mysteries,What will women own on their own? Nothing! Again! Transies who attack us only care about themselves.
We women need our own culture, our own resourcing, our own traditions.

You can tell these are men, They don’t care if women loose the Only tradition reclaimed after much research and practice ,the Dianic Tradition. Men simply want in. its their will. How dare us women not let them in and give away the ONLY spiritual home we have!

Men want to worship the Goddess? Why not put in the WORK and create your own trads. The order of ATTIS for example,(dormant since the 4rth century) used to be for trans gendered people, also the castrata, men who castrated themselves to be more like the Goddess.

Why are we the ONLY tradition they want? Go Gardnerian!Go Druid! Go Ecclectic!

Filled with women, and men. They would fit fine.

But if you claim to be one of us, you have to have sometimes in your life a womb, and overies and MOON bleed and not die.

Women are born not made by men on operating tables.

This comment ill suits your status as an Elder, a Witch, and one of the most important philosophers and thinkers in contemporary Feminism and Neopaganism. I urge you to consider the importance of your words, and to remember that there are sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, lovers and allies on both sides of this argument. If we must disagree, let us do so in a spirit of love. If there must be boundaries between us, let them be drawn in a spirit of cooperation.

I do not dispute the right of CAYA, or any other Dianic group, to define “Womyn” as they see fit. I accept your right to exclude me. Since I identify as third-gendered rather than female, I would never seek entry into your Mysteries. I also accept your right to exclude my transgendered sisters or anyone else whom I might identify as a woman. They are your Mysteries, and you are welcome to share them as you will. I respect your rights to association, belief and expression.

However, I also respect the right of my transgendered sisters to their identity – an identity for which they have suffered and for which they continue to suffer. I will speak out against discrimination and hatred when it is aimed at them, and I will encourage others to do so. If Dianic Wiccans wish to shut out transgendered women from public events held by Pantheacon (particularly if they do so with hateful remarks about “being made on operating tables” and the like), I would encourage the organizers of Pantheacon to withdraw their public support for those workshops and those rituals.

This would not stop Dianics from holding private ceremonies and rituals in their own suites, as many groups do. And just as the OTO or other lodges and orders can restrict events to members only, the Dianic groups would be free to open their doors to whomever they saw fit. This would strike me as an appropriate compromise which would at least go some way toward acknowledging everyone’s rights and feelings. (Granted, it’s sure to dissatisfy just about everyone on one level or another, but that’s the nature of compromise).


Scylla said...

I identify third-gendered as well, and the comments from Z make me sick. SHE is not the arbiter of what is and is not Woman.

A woman is born, but some are born with 'inconsistencies' they later correct (or don't, and that's their damned right). If they are willing to stand before Lilith and say they are women, they are ****ing women in my books. Bawdy, brash, brave and true. The fiery heart of the rebellious, hairy, weird and wonderful Night Queen who will not be told what her 'place' is.

By throwing them out, these transphobic coveners, reinforced that these are the children of Lilith - thrown from the garden for refusing to lie down and take it.

Brother Christopher said...

It seems, the crux of the whole thing is "what makes a woman?"

For myself, I am inclined to think that it is the individual who decides what thier gender is, not the meat, at least based upon experiences in my life.

The statement by Z budapest is extremely shameful and bigoted. It is very sad to see someone saying things like that.

Almanzo said...

Who enjoys seeing the pain of an older cis woman who has had to have a hysterectomy, and now can't figure out her identity? That isn't an entertaining thing. This insistence on a womb defining a woman is hurtful to cisgender women as well as trans, and it needs to stop.

Besides, if we widen our groups and become more accepting, we become stronger. If we fight against people who don't need to be fought against, we waste energy and cause bitterness all around. I doubt the Goddess approves of that.

Anonymous said...

It saddens me to see the mentality of 'Transsexual Empire' regurgitated again and again. That book has a woman's name as the author but much of the 'research' came from a bigoted right-wing christian male.

Her rejection seems strange to me. In the biblical story, Lilith is cast out because she refuses to be ruled by Adam. Transgendered people do this quite literally within their own bodies, refusing to be ruled by the hormones and social constructs of masculinity.

That said, I will admit I have met transwomen who had uncomfortable energy and I did not want to be around them. However, I have also met transwomen who did not trigger this. Likewise, I have encountered many XX women who I also did not care to be around and who triggered the same discomfort, and I have known many women who twist their sexuality into a weapon and a shield and make me deeply ashamed to be female. Or the women who expect me to hate them because they are heterosexual and married and have children and thus treat me as an enemy. Perhaps we can find some arbitrary reason to boot them out as well. OR PERHAPS just because someone doesn't match MY definition of 'woman' is no groups for anything. Perhaps I am merely arrogant, elitist, and biased.

The bigotry above is no different from the bigotry that would exclude Lesbians or Heterosexual women or Virgins or Non-Virgins. How dare anyone attempt to define women as "something that bleeds for a week and doesn't die." It is not merely arrogant and exclusionary to the excluded group but misogynistic and hateful to ALL women.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. I didn't attend Pantheacon, but I've been hearing issues from one group or another for years. Being a convention goer for years, though, Public Space exhibitions, such as those held in ballrooms and conference rooms, should be open to all (With a small exception made for age).

I have no qualms about people organizing private events that exclude groups. That is what those are for, after all. The Con Floor should be for exhibition, and you can't exhibit a belief if you refuse to show it.

Anonymous said...

So Z would turn away a woman born with the "right" chromosomes who was born with a defective uterus? Out there are women who never have menstruated due to medical conditions but were born with the requisite parts or at least the chromosomes associated with same. The "at some point" able to menstruate remains a faulty definition. And her hate speech usage is truly shameful in a high priestess. "Transies" is what the bashers say when they feel like varying from "trannies."

Ember said...

"I would encourage the organizers of Pantheacon to withdraw their public support for those workshops and those rituals.

This would not stop Dianics from holding private ceremonies and rituals in their own suites, as many groups do."

This is one of a handful of different suggested compromises that has indeed been brought up.

It remains to be seen what will happen for next year, and for the long run - there's a lot of discussion left to be had, I'm sure. But I thought you'd at least like to know that your idea is one on the table, as far as I know.


Dhr.Balthazar said...

What a hateful, ignorant position to take. She sounds more monster than 'womyn' to me. As if genitalia constituted gender. She should read some basic under-grad gender theory to get a clue. This kind of cruelty is commonplace for trans people. Beaten and killed in flesh and in word daily. My dear beloved godsister is too scared to walk from the house to bus-stop by herself for fear of being attacked. Is that any different, essentially, to the violence of these words?

Katie B. said...

@Ember - In my opinion, it's the only honorable compromise, to hold exclusivist ceremonies in private suites, on private time. Publicly supported rituals should be open to all members of the public.

Anonymous said...

As an atypically-gendered person myself, I certainly agree with you (as I hope I sufficiently indicated on the comments at Anya's blog!). I would not be seeking entry into such a ritual, in any case, nor into any gender-exclusive event. Which is all the more funny, because as I was approaching another room to attend a session when the Lilith ritual was about to start, I was asked by someone (who might have been with programming) if I was getting in line for the Lilith ritual...and while I said "No, thanks," not knowing what was going on at the time, I didn't get the "feck off" vibe from the person asking either...which is strange, considering what ended up happening...I assumed in the woman's manner of asking me that I was welcome, but perhaps that's because I tend to assume good and hospitable motives generally until proven otherwise.

In any case...thank you again for speaking up on this and being part of the discussion!

Anonymous said...

I would like to signal boost a dear friend's swingeing call to action for trans men and women to take back their place in the male and female divine:

There are also a few recent posts on my blog regarding binary-identified trans folks and third-gender practice, as well as my place in Men's Mysteries as a genderqueer cissexual man, for anyone who may be interested.

Thora Appelgren said...

On behalf of CAYA Coven, I would like to say that it is apparent that this is an issue that has hit a nerve for many in the Pagan community. We sincerely appreciate everyone who has taken the time to share their point of view on this, in this blog and others. As we encourage open discussion around this topic, we would like to also offer our own views on gender and ritual space, which can be found here-

Thank you,

whatsername said...

In the first space I read about this incident, the comments were filled with transmisognyistic and transphobic bigotry.

I am so glad NOT to experience that here.

Personally, I have a problem with WBW spaces. I comprehend the reasoning, but it doesn't sit right with me. However, I also don't think I can force my opinions on to others. I simply would not attend such a space.

BUT, in a public space, as this ritual was, I definitely don't think such a policy is appropriate by any measure. I wholly support your call to PantheaCon to withdraw support for such rituals.

Anonymous said...

I also didn't attend the con but the fallout is upsetting because I do have a trans female friend who would have been turned away and quite frankly she's more feminine and female than I am! I've often jokingly described myself as butch even though I'm a straight woman. I feel I'm butch because I have no problem at all assuming male responsibilities and actions. I don't know if that makes me genderqueer or what but for my friend who is a wonderful person and beautiful woman to be rejected just because she wasn't born with the same parts that I have is disheartening. I have no problem with Dianics having rituals but if you're on the main floor of a convention it should be open to ALL attendees. Excluding people smacks of a patriarchal power play and shouldn't be tolerated even if it is from the esteemed Z. Budapest in the name of matriarchy.

David said...

I am just so shocked, horrified and ashamed that such a beloved Pagan elder would take this stance. How can we contact Z in a public fashion? This is absolutely unacceptable bigotry for a public Pagan voice. Shame on her. Today, the Goddess cries.

Anonymous said...

I am saddened by the bigotry, elitism and hate thrown out here by one of our elders. I agree that a group has the right to exclude who they wish, but I also agree that such groups should have no entitlement at a venue such as Pantheacon to hold a "public ritual". As suggested above, private rituals are available at Pantheacon. I agree with the sentiment, that Pantheacon should withdraw support for any group that holds such a stance. I embrace the opportunity this situation brings for dialogue and hopefully healing. Perhaps even a change of heart and the embracing of tolerance might be facilitated because of this situation.

Marian said...

this lady sound mean and judgemental

Pam Harrison said...

The comments by Z Budapest come across as written by an angry, ignorant creature who knows nothing of our history. Or only parts of it, those parts that suit her. "Legendary witch and elder" or not, she will fade away in time with her partially-remembered, intolerant rewritten perceptions of what an uber-feminist man-hater's history should have been.
If I were throwing a women's event, and transgender women wanted to take part in it, they would be welcomed with open arms. Transwomen are really NOT men, if you've ever met or known one. It's our spirit that makes us who we are, not our body parts. The spirit that wrote these comments in italics is bitter and full of contempt and hate. Therefore I wash my hands.

Ember said...

@Katie B. "exclusivist ceremonies in private suites, on private time. Publicly supported rituals should be open to all members of the public."

To my perception, a significant portion of the PCon specific question is about how public vs. private any given space within the convention, the hotel, etc. is. The answers to those kinds of questions significantly influence what kind of compromise seems appropriate.

I don't off the top of my head know what all the options being considered are - I'm not in a position of authority on this topic, I just know a lot of the folks involved.

I've been trying to stay relatively neutral in my own responses not because I don't have strong opinions, but because I don't want to misrepresent the various people I'm connected with.


crazyjane13 said...

Z has a Facebook page. When I asked her if indeed she had made those comments, I got a brusque reply from Bobbie Grennier:

'At the moment, Z is very focused on Merlin Stone's passing. There are other Dianics who can answer your questions. I'm sure they are engaged in discussions we aren't aware of. The Dianic Tradition has been very clear that they are a woman-born-woman tradition only and that's not going to change. The Dianics are very clear on their tradition and no amount of bullying will change their minds. We're not interested in the rumor mills and have no interest in addressing them. The Dianics have gifted the Pagan community with a great deal over the years, and that's what should be focused on.'

Insomnia Girl said...

@crazjane13, I saw that and noticed that Bobbie's response didn't even address the issue at all. There is, of course, every possibility that the blog comment was written by someone posing as Z rather than by Z herself, which I hope is the case, but it links back to Z's webpage, and I've read comments from others who suggest that these remarks are not out of line with Z's views on trans-inclusion. As far as I know, Z has neither confirmed nor denied her involvement in writing that blog comment.

You should not have been treated that way in Bobbie's response to your very civil and justifiable question. And Z should speak up and let us know whether she did, in fact, write this comment or not, because if she did, it will do (and is already doing) irreparable damage to her reputation and position as a respected Pagan elder, and if she did not, she needs to set the record straight before it does any more harm.

Although I have studied with Z's Dianic University and now practice and study with a Dianic circle, I have always disliked the trans-exclusion of Dianic Wicca, particularly as someone who has never really felt completely female, but I can at least listen to and try to understand the position of women who prefer XX-women only space when it is presented civilly and respectfully (to the extent that such exclusion can ever be considered respectful). However, such vitriolic and incendiary comments are always unacceptable. There is a lot of anti-Dianic animosity out there right now, and understandably so, and comments like that only make it worse. Change in Dianic practice can only come from within the Dianic movement, but this will not happen so long as animosity continues to grow on both sides of the issue.

Bobbie describes the push for trans-inclusion as "bullying", which to them it is. Transwomen who are excluded see it as insulting and discriminatory, which to them it is. Civil discourse is the only way to work within such different viewpoints and experiences, and for the most part, both sides have remained civil - except for this statement, which is neither civil nor discourse.

I envision a time when future Dianic leaders will include transwomen, even if only in some Dianic traditions rather than all of them, but this will not happen so long as each other's voices are not respectfully heard. One of the things I love so much about being a Pagan is our plurality and our open-mindedness, and this comment attributed to Z (whether it really was her or not) is neither. But please remember that Z does not speak for all Dianics, and that we do not all feel that transwomen should be excluded from our practice.

Unknown said...

I'd like to encourage folks to attend and apply to present at

Email me at for the submission application.

Gwen said...

Unfortunately no it wasn't. She called for support against the dreaded trans menace threatening her space. The language used was quite literally transphobic. This statement is quite consistent. I can no longer see that page BTW but some of the stuff in it was most upsetting.

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