Monday, February 27, 2012

Pantheacon Problems, Pantheacon Solutions?

I'd like to start this entry with an honest and sincere question: how do we find common ground between the Dianics and transgender women in this conflict?  Before I begin, I'd like to note the following regarding my choice of words.

First, I realize that many Dianics consider "cisgender women" to be offensive: many transwomen consider "womyn-born-womyn" to be offensive.  I've used "womyn-born-womyn" in an effort to reach out to the Dianics who are by this point feeling overwhelmed by the opposition.   I've also put it in quotes to show that I consider it a problematic term at best.

I've also very deliberately said that many in the Pantheacon community see "womyn-born-womyn" rituals in the same light as "whites only" rituals.  I am not entirely sure that is a helpful comparison.  (I am entirely sure that comparing Z & Co. to Nazis, KKK members or the Westboro Baptist Church is not at all helpful to anyone and would ask people to refrain from it: I will not approve any comment to this post which uses that kind of inflammatory language).  But you gotta deal with what you gotta deal with.  If a significant chunk of the membership at a public event equates your rituals with a White Power gathering, then you have a problem which needs to be addressed.  We do nobody any favors by ignoring those feelings even if we disagree with them.

I have suggested that Dianics refrain from offering "womyn-born-womyn only" rituals as part of Pantheacon's public calendar. But, honestly, I think that would be a temporary and unsatisfactory solution at best.  Right now, for better or for worse and justly or unjustly, a significant percentage of the community sees "womyn-born-womyn only" rituals in the same unfavorable light as "whites only" rituals. And I suspect a Heathen group that wanted to hold a "whites only" blot in their suite would not receive a favorable reception, nor would attendees be mollified because they didn't put it on Pantheacon's public calendar.

After the 2011 brouhaha, the organizers of Pantheacon decided that the problem was that transgender women were not notified ahead of time that the ritual was for "womyn-born-womyn" only.  Their response this year was to ensure that Z Budapest let people know ahead of time that her rite was for "genetic women only."  And we all see how well that worked at quelling this controversy.  Will moving Dianic rites from public to private space fix the problem, or will we just be rehashing these same sad arguments next year?  When the discussion started, I thought the organizers at Pantheacon erred by giving a notorious transphobe their imprimatur for her exclusionary ritual without holding her to account for her earlier hateful words. I still think they screwed the pooch on that one - but I'm no longer sure that removing the PCon organizers from this equation will resolve the issue.

Z Budapest and her followers certainly have the right to share or withhold their Mysteries as they see fit. But those who find their criteria discriminatory and hateful also have the right to make their opinions known. As I've said repeatedly in this argument, free speech and freedom of religion don't include the right to a cheering section.  And right now it looks like each side has dug trenches and is prepared for a long and bloody war.

Telling Z and her followers that they can create their own "womyn-born-womyn" space in a private suite will likely raise the hackles of transgender women and allies who feel that Pantheacon is enabling hatred and discrimination.  And if the comments on various forums are any indication, Dianic detractors are greatly outnumbering Dianic supporters in this conflict. Telling Z she must open her private space to anyone who identifies as female, on the other hand, will be de facto exclusion.  If I didn't have the right to offer my rituals and my parties to whomever I saw fit, I wouldn't expend the time and effort to appear at Pantheacon. I doubt very much the Dianics will either.

Would the transgender community be willing to accept Z & Co's right to hold exclusionary rituals in private space? Would Z & Co be willing to accept being told they had to make their public rituals open to the public - or, at the very least, to everyone who identifies as female? I am aware that both of these "communities" are nebulous at best and there will be hurt feelings no matter what happens at PCon 2013.  But will this be one of those solutions which satisfies nobody? Or are we ready to engage in the kind of mutually compassionate and understanding dialogue which will help us to reach a permanent resolution?