Monday, July 16, 2012

More on Pantheacon, Dialogue and Armistice: Responding to Diotima


Responding to yesterday's post, Diotima said:
Kenaz, I am sorry to find you think I missed the irony in your original post. Help me out here. Was your point that people who disagree with you on the subject of exclusionary ritual are like the poor, persecuted Christians of poor, benighted Asheville where the hippie peace freaks are taking over the healthy, traditional culture? Byron thinks those Christians must learn to change with the times in order to accommodate the rights of a minority culture? And isn't it ironic that Byron apparently doesn't get that she needs to learn to change in order to accommodate the rights of a minority culture? Yes? Got that.
Diotima's contempt for the "poor, persecuted Christians of poor, benighted Asheville" is pretty clear.  I'm not at all surprised to discover the feeling is mutual.  For all the talk about "dialogue" and "discussion" it seems to me Diotima prefers gloating about how she defeated those slope-browed Bible thumpers to actually talking to them.   Nor am I at all surprised that Diotima refuses to address the class divide between Asheville's New Age newcomers and the working-class natives who have lived there for generations.
But here's the thing -- the irony is less than compelling, because your comparison simply doesn't hold up on a number of levels. First, there is a big difference between rights that are upheld by our government, an entity that has at least some control over all our lives on a number of different levels, and the right of a minority culture to attend any ritual at a Pagan convention.
Speaking of "rights that are upheld by our government:" the City of San Jose, California, where Pantheacon is held, protects transgendered people under the city's anti-discrimination ordinance. Trans women and their allies have no need to "dialogue with Dianics" in this situation.  A simple letter to the proper authorities, cc'ed to the Doubletree Hotel's attorney, would be far more efficacious.  Glenn Turner appears to have come to a similar conclusion. As the organizer and sole owner of Pantheacon, Inc., she's already agreed that any ritual open to women only must be open to all who identify as women. 

Much as Ginger and company managed to get their way not by "dialogue" or "empathy" but by asserting their rights and causing a stink, trans women and allies got their way by asserting their rights and causing a stink.  Far from "denigrating" either, I'm merely stating that both behaved commendably.  

Second, Byron was not asking anyone to change their opinion -- just their behavior when they are interacting in a required, government-controlled environment. It strikes me that you are asking Byron to change her opinion. Do you feel she is not entitled to her own opinion? Or is it that she should not be allowed to try and persuade others to her way of thinking?
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  Not everybody is entitled to public ritual space at Pantheacon to express that opinion.  Nobody is arguing that Z Budapest etc. change opinions, any more than you and your colleagues are insisting that Buncombe County's Christians burn their Bibles and repudiate Jesus.  In both cases we're stating that your private views and rituals are not appropriate for the public arena.  And while I believe Byron should be "allowed to try and persuade others to her way of thinking," I also believe that I (and others) should be allowed to disagree with her.
The argument around exclusionary ritual is still in the stage of determining what, if any, injustice has been done. There are disagreements about this. People need to talk about it, discuss it, argue it out, and Byron is in the middle of presenting her side of that argument. Unlike Byron's fight, your fight is not a matter requiring people to adhere to established Constitutional law, it's a question of determining what the rules at Pantheacon will be. The process of making the law is very different from the process of upholding it. You may not like the fact that there is a question in some people's minds as to what is or is not an injustice in this situation, but detracting from that discussion by making spurious, contemptuous comparisons is not helpful.
Umm, there IS no "argument." The woman who owns the convention has already made her decision.  The San Jose City Council has already made its decision.  Byron is welcome to express her opinion on a fait accompli, but there's really very little or anyone else is going to do to change it.  We can argue about the moral implications of Sherman's March all day, but Atlanta is going to remain part of the Union no matter how eloquently we plead our case.  
But what really bothers me, Kenaz, is your tone.
To quote Philip Marlowe in the immortal The Big Sleep, "And I'm not crazy about yours. I didn't ask to see you. I don't mind if you don't like my manners, I don't like them myself. They are pretty bad. I grieve over them on long winter evenings."
Your post, instead of laying out a reasoned argument for required inclusion of trans-women in any women-only ritual (ironic in itself, given that we are dealing with an already exclusionary ritual), and perhaps even addressing with empathy Byron's stated concern that all women be able to attend a ritual where they feel safe, simply focuses on attempting to demean Byron's good and hard work to uphold Pagan rights at the level of local government.
I have never said that women should be required to include trans women in their private rituals, or that Z Budapest should be required to recognize trans women as women during her Mysteries.  It looks idiotic when your opponents claim that stopping Bible distribution means children are going to be expelled for wearing crosses: kindly refrain from using similar exaggeration.

I support absolutely the rights of women (and everyone else) to free association and to freedom of religion.  But that doesn't translate into a right to public ritual space.  The Christians may conflate your efforts to keep your courthouse a religiously neutral place as an "attack on Jesus."  Z Budapest and her supporters may conflate our efforts to keep exclusionary rituals out of public space as an "attack on womyn."  In both cases they are misguided at best and engaging in self-pitying melodrama at worst.
Finally, your suggestion that any good parent would simply move if they have a child and live in this area, is, frankly, risible, and underscores how little you know of this area and the people here. Byron, Ginger, and many of the local Pagans were not only born here, but can trace their ancestry in these mountains back for hundreds of years. Even assuming it was financially feasible, as Pagans they have ties to their landbase, their ancestors, and their families. As you know, Kenaz, some things are worth fighting for, and these women will fight for their rights here. Denigrating their efforts does nothing to advance your cause.
First, I never said "any good parent." I stated what MY decision would be, given the circumstances you described.  If moving were not an option, I would at the very least keep a low profile rather than rile up a potentially hostile mob.  My child's physical and emotional well-being is more important to me than keeping the Ten Commandments out of my local courthouse etc.  You are of course free to make your own parenting decisions and decide what battles are worth fighting and at what cost.