Sunday, March 6, 2011

More Wild Hunting: On the Importance of Framing a Debate

I think you misunderstood my comments or I wasn't clear. I'm not talking about transwomen dominating. I'm talking about a whole ideological worldview dominating, one that requires everyone to "fit" into a particular dominant perspective. Those who are making comments that indicate that some transition or healing is needed in the Dianic community so that Dianics can "come to the light" are in the dominant ideological worldview, whether or not they are Trans. 

My problem is that many posters have tried to frame this debate in terms of whether or not the Dianics should hold "womyn-born-womyn" circles or deny admittance to transwomen. The real question here is much more narrow: what are the ramifications of holding X-only rituals at a public event and how do we deal with controversies over who qualifies as X?

To many transpeople and their allies, the distinction between "transwoman/mutilated man" and "womyn born womyn" is as repellent, stupid and wrong-headed as the distinction between "the White Race" and "Mud Races." We can argue until the cows come home as to whether that is a fair analogy or whether the trans camp is overreacting. But the fact remains that a significant percentage of attendees at PCon or most public events do not like the cisgender-only policies of Dianics and take it as a personal insult when their people are turned away from Dianic events.

Most of us agree that Dianic groups have the right to their theology and to choose their membership: they can invite or disinvite whom they will. I'm not even denying their right to hold rituals and meetings in private space at a convention. What I question is this and only this: is it appropriate for a public convention to provide its imprimatur to a group whose policies of membership are controversial at best? And is it appropriate to ask them to function as security and enforcers when that policy is questioned?

And before you answer, think about the transwoman who is removed from a CAYA event, then decides to sue CAYA and the Pantheacon organizers for gender discrimination. The CAYA Amazons could almost certainly get the suit dismissed on grounds of religious freedom. Could the organizers of Pantheacon get a similar dismissal ... or would the plaintiff's attorney claim that they had knowingly and willfully promoted an event that discriminated based on gender identity -- a protected class in California? And how much would it cost everyone involved to get the whole mess sorted out?

Many would like to turn this into a "Dianics BAAAAD" argument. If Z Budapest and pals can reframe this debate as a case of "the evil patriarchy and its minions are bullying us," they don't have to question their own privilege and their use of hateful language. Trans activists see this as a stepping stone toward inclusion and recognition - first PCon, then Michigan - and a chance to further muddy the reputation of people they view as transphobic and bigoted (in the case of Budapest at least, it would seem they are correct). We might do well to limit the discussion to the specific question at hand rather than getting distracted by tangential issues, no matter how important those tangents might be.