Friday, March 4, 2011

Yep, You Guessed It ... Still More on the Lilith Ritual at Pantheacon 2011

What started as a simple misunderstanding and miscommunication turned into an online war with charges and countercharges flying in every direction.  Hurtful words were exchanged and ugly prejudices displayed on both sides.  Yet amidst all the hostility there was also a great deal of honest and frank dialogue on issues which have long been ignored.  When the Mother of Abortions comes out of her shadowy wasteland you can hardly expect her to arrive quietly:  neither can you be surprised to find she brings turmoil with her wisdom.

CAYA Coven has issued a statement concerning this ritual and its aftermath. Some have complained that they should have made a public statement sooner.  Others have complained because they did not come out loudly and clearly in favor of their side on this debate. This suggests they have given the issue due thought and that they are trying to find a solution which is responsive and sensitive to the needs of all concerned.

A couple of people have called me on an analogy I made in one of my first comments on the topic, wherein I suggested holding a ritual which would only be open to people of "Northern European" descent.  That was sloppy writing on my part. I don't want to turn the Civil Rights movement into a convenient metaphor for my cause.  Neither do I wish to draw a moral equation between those seeking "womyn born womyn" space and Nazis or racial separatists.  (And for the love of all that is sacred, there is nothing and nobody in Northern Tradition shamanism advocating racism!)  For my poor choice of words and my own unrecognized privilege, I apologize: I will try to be more careful in the future.

For the record, I support the right to free association and recognize the value of restricted space. There are times when you don't want to educate your well-intentioned allies. You want to air your laundry in private, among others who share your experience.  Like our earliest dinosaur-dodging ancestors we are pack primates: we seek safety, healing and power amongst our own.

But what happens when there is a dispute regarding who may or may not be included? There has been longstanding tensions between transgendered women and some Dianics and second wave feminists.  When this tension flares up at a public convention the organizers gets placed in an uncomfortable position as referees. This gets especially painful when one considers just how quickly this question can explode in everyone's face.  And if you think the current brouhaha was bad, imagine a lawsuit claiming discrimination based on gender identity: that could quickly become much uglier and far, far more costly for all concerned.

For now perhaps the best solution is to keep exclusive events and workshops within private space, and to avoid putting them on public calendars or otherwise giving them anything which could be interpreted as an organizational imprimatur.  This gives groups much greater latitude to pick and choose attendees and members. It also frees the organizers from becoming embroiled in controversies and from even the appearance of tolerating or encouraging prohibited discrimination.

I recognize the rights of Dianics and other cis-women to exclude transwomen from their mysteries.  I would also invite them to consider what they gain from that exclusion - and what they lose.   The policies favoring "women born women" are seen as wrongheaded and hateful by a growing number of women.  Perhaps they might do well to listen to what their critics are saying with open ears and open hearts.  Those who are shrieking the loudest scream in pain: those who speak softly but firmly have much wisdom they might offer you.  Those who disagree with you might return the favor, consider your objections, and meet you in a spirit of respectful disagreement rather than open warfare.

To my transgendered sisters: I understand your outrage at being shut out, and your pain at the hateful behavior shown by some who should have known better. I do not ask you to forgive and forget nor do I ask you to be calm. Your anger is a precious thing that can keep you alive long after hope has faded.  But because it is precious you should save it for appropriate targets.  We can make Lisa Vogel, Z Budapest and their ilk our enemies - or we can treat them like the anachronisms they are, praising them for their past and pitying them for their success in creating a world where their revolutionary ideology grows increasingly irrelevant.