D is for Dianic, Diversity, Discrimination, and DNA

OK. I’ll play.

This past week, everybody’s been talking about Pantheacon and the backlash against Z. Budapest’s cisfemale-only ritual.[1] The Bad Witch tries being flip, but this week, it’s hard to watch people (read: Pagans) invalidate one another (read: other Pagans) and use personal-condemnation to hurt those who stand along-side us.

Before I begin, I have to say that I was not at Pantheacon; not because I wouldn’t have loved to be there but because I have much on my plate and California is (in every sense of the word) far from Alabama. I also have to say that I don’t hate Z. Budapest[2] – I’ll get to that in a minute. But, like Lazarus K:

I have deep respect for Budapest’s role as an elder in the Pagan community and the work that she’s done that has benefitted all of us, male and female alike, I can’t let the comment, ‘Women are born not made by men on operating tables,’ go without providing a more inclusive view.

If you’ve missed the memo, I’ll give you a rundown. (The Wild Hunt also has a collection of statements on the opposing side of Budapest’s principles.)

The controversy revolves around a gender and exclusion. In a nutshell, a ritual led by Z. Budapest was billed as being open to “genetic women” only. This doesn’t sit well with a lot of folks, because it consciously prohibits transwomen. Not only that, last year there was a bit of a flap over the same thing. Many hoped this would be resolved. It was, but not to the satisfaction of detractors – most of whom are very restrained in their censure.

Deborah Castellano, a Dianic Wiccan herself, says that due to Budapest’s words and actions Castellano no longer regards Z. Budapest “as one of [her] personal Dianic elders though [she does] acknowledge [Budapest’s] work in the community and her personal struggles.”

And with Mrs. B. at Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom,who weighs in at length, noting that “the time when it was okay to exclude people based on their gender, physical sex organs, or sexual orientation is over.” Amen? Amen.[3]

Crystal Blanton, writing at Daughters of Eve, offers a mediation on discrimination in which she recalls that:

We judge one another in order to define who is Black enough, spiritual enough, Pagan enough or oppressed enough and we miss the mark on the true gift of our community.  The best gift that we can give is to love more, understand more, empathize more , show more, give more, listen more, connect more and even identify more with those who have experienced this here journey called life.

It’s been pointed out to me that I need a meaningful transition here. Rather than revising the whole post, may I just say that the following is not related to Blanton’s comment?

Usually it’s those who are crying “inequality” the loudest that are the ones who will strip your freedoms fastest. Some people want power so badly that they will deprive it from the most marginalized.

Side note – [4]

Recently I had another Witch openly deride me in her blog for being a Ceremonial Magician.[5] Right after having mocked me, as a “book witch,” she dispatched a post about “religious elitism” (damn, don’t that door swing both ways?) and religious freedom within Paganism. Hot on the heels of that, she disparaged me specifically – all but called TBW out by name – for performing the LBRP: “she ‘called the Archangels’ into my living room.”[6] But this is all just my side note. It doesn’t really mean anything. Just that discrimination happens everywhere. Even in small-town Alabama, lol, go figure.

Now, as a Pagan community, we have a number of different – and valuable – questions to contemplate and a reaction to deliberate.

Picture from “Doing Magic: The Writings of a Holy Idiot.

  • Should a ritual held at a paid event be limited to only a certain type of participant, while not allowing others?
  • If a transwoman has paid her admission just like the ciswomen present, then why can’t she also join in a celebration of womanhood?
  • And does Budapest have the right to limit the ritual this way?
  • Where do we draw the line?

Unfortunately, yes. Budapest has the right to hold whatever kind of ritual she chooses. Whether or not that’s smart or moral begs the question. It is her choice to decide the intent of her ritual, and therefore who may (and who may not) participate. It is our right to decide whether or not to attend, support, or protest in such a ritual.

In a culture that asks us to tick either M or F in a little box or bubble, there is a tendency to neglect the fact that we are not always what we “seem” and that the authentic self is goes beyond the material husk in to which we are assigned.[7]   According to Anne Fausto-Sterling’s now two-decades old work on genders (when are we going to listen?):

Western culture is deeply committed to the idea that there are only two sexes. . . . But if the state and the legal system have an interest in maintaining a two-party sexual system, they are in defiance of nature. For biologically speaking, there are many gradations running from female to male; and depending on how one calls the shots, one can argue that along that spectrum lie at least five sexes– and perhaps even more.

Given that four percent of my fellow human beings are born intrasexual, I cannot in good conscience delineate cisfemale from other-than-cisfemale. Personally, I wouldn’t design, conduct, or attend a ritual which endorses physiological seeming-fact over personal truth. To me, a transwoman – someone who gender-identifies as female despite congenital biology – has  just as much right to celebrate the joys and mysteries of womanhood as I do. Because, to me, she is a woman. I am not her god/dess and refuse to make judgments about what her (yes, her) personal experience with her body is and is not.

I agree with Rowen Pendragon, who argues:

Now, let’s break this apart for a second.  I am a woman.  I was born female.  I am all-for women-only space and women-only ritual.  I am also all-for men-only ritual space.  Hell, I’d be all-for transgender-only space if it was desired.  Why?  Because we all have our own Mysteries related to gender and gender identity to explore and we have the right to explore those things and honor them in private space.  But this is something that should be done in private space, not at a public event. 

On the other hand, some folks raise an interesting counterargument: we don’t protest mosques and synagogues that still make men and women worship separately, and we don’t protest the Catholic Church for disallowing Priestesshood.

While it’s interesting, I find this argument to be a false analogy. By choice, we are not Muslim, Jewish, or Catholic. So what they do in their worship space is none of our affair. Plus. it’s imperative that we acknowledge that many in our Pagan community are in our Pagan community because they felt uninvited and undesirable in other religious traditions.[8] Think about it. We are Pagans. How dare we say that someone else’s practice or presence is inferior to “ours.” And worse – the “ours” within “ours.”

As Pagans, however, you might draw a better analogy that argues that Pagan women do not protest male only rituals. True. No one said that it wasn’t OK to be selective. But selective and discriminatory are two different things.

So I ask, “Where do you draw the line?” The line between selectivity and intolerance?

Lady Carolina asks:

Do you really need to be part of our Rites? Can you leave us have our Rites alone and create your own? Nobody tells you how to be or do, you can write your own book, your own story, your own spirituality. Why fight with those who wrote the book that is specific to one type of spirituality? . . . When it comes to Women’s Mysteries we have protests outside our Rites and Ceremonies. Why is that? Why is it ok to protest when we choose to celebrate our mysteries – our sacred blood?

But then, I have no choice but to ask, what about women with amenorrhea? What of my beautiful, wonderfully female sisters and daughters – perhaps they are athletes, perhaps they’ve encountered ill-health – but for whatever reason, they do not experience “sacred blood” like I do – or at all. Do they get to come to the party?

Stoopid Girlz - click to play

And what of intrasexuals? If we had only cismale-only and cisfemale-only rituals, they’d be out on both counts. What do we do? Ask them to form their own community? Doesn’t this reek of “separate but equal” to you? It does me.

Here’s how I see it. I am a cisfemale. I do my nails. I wear skirts. I like my big-ol’ boobies. I giggle. I like boys. And pink. And P!ИK. And cooking and cleaning (yes, I like them if no one else is home – but I did just hire a maid, so that’s girlie, right?). And bunnies. And gardening. Sometimes, I even wear makup. Especially lipstick – I will spend twenty-minutes on lipstick. If I were a little younger, I would totes rock-out some Hello Kitty. My hair is long and I love braids. And hats. And pearls. My voice squeaks once in a while. I like to drink a little and take kissy-face pictures in the girls’ bathroom with my other cisgirl-and-non-cisgirlfriends. And if you promise never to tell anyone, I kinda like appletinis. Like, a lot. A lot, a lot.[9]

I was raised with a strongly female influence. My first coven was all female – all academic: read third wave feminist and gynocentrism galore. Of the notably Z. Budapest variety. This first coven was led by an ex-nun. My second coven was with an openly sexual all-female group. [10]  I have a PhD in Gender Studies – inclusive Gender Studies. It hasn’t been until the past few years that I have engaged with men as magickal counterparts (other than metaphorically).

But I identify as female, not because I am biologically female, but simply because I identify as female.

Take this story under consideration:

I have a dear friend who “looks” female on the outside (god, I hate the language of it all) – she has a nice pair of boobies, a vajay, a little jaw, a set of full hips, full lips, and little feet.

Couldn’t make a baby for her life.

So, at thirty-sumpfrin years-old the OBGYN told her that it was because she is “not entirely a girl.” She has a genotype which does not match her phenotype[11]: her genetic makeup is not what would be expected on the basis of an ovary-wearing hot-mama like her.

But had she not had the blood-test, we would have never known.

How many stories like this do we have to hear to realize that we ain’t just boyz n girlz? Remember when for a few years, a few years back, Olympic athletes with a SRY gene were not permitted to participate as females (SRY genes can cause Swyer syndrome and other “disorders” which cause a human being to “appear” externally female but in place of baby-making ovaries, are “functionless tissue” which becomes medically identified as “gonads.” The language alone is fuuuucked up.)

Get this – if my darling girlie had been a lesbian and/or had never tried becoming pregnant (eff the heteronormative imperative that says all straight Barbies want Baby Krissys – eff it hard) no one would have known that she has boy-ish-genes.

My Goddess made my girlfriend that way.[12]

It was not an error.

Let’s celebrate.

Now that she knows, is she still invited to the “cisgirls olny” ritual?

Before she knew, would it have made a difference?

What are we going to do – blood tests? Doesn’t that butt its head against blood sacrifice in a really appalling sort of way?

I get it. Some of y’all imagine transfemales as men in disguise.

I imagine my transfemale sisters as – well, sisters.

And that’s not to say my perspective is superior to any one else’s. Just to ask, fuck, y’all?[13] Are we going to start asking for genetic profiles at the ritual doors? Or can we just say PLPT and ask, “How’s your soul?”



[1] A not rhetorically uncharged eye-witness report of which can be found on Ted Teo’s Bishop in the Grove  and an Open Letter to Pantheacon Organization by Miniver Cheevy.

[2] But I stand fully behind those that feel ire for her: See The Provocation.

[3] Oh, well. Despite The Bad Witch’s, perhaps sometimes naïve, confidence in folks, some people actually do suck.

[4] Dear SKW, I know you think that all content in all of my blogs are about you. They are not. This, however, is. (The last time I actually blogged about you was Abraham and Isaac. And that was more about my experience than you, per se.) I’ll make you a deal, to avoid confusion, when I am talking about you, I will use red font – and underline. Like here. And the footnote below. Now either leave me alone or man up and comment on my post. Peace?

[5] Look, y’all. Reading does not make me a scholar; reading makes me a better scholar. Likewise, I am not a Witch because I read a book. I am a Witch because I was Born This Way. However, I’m a better Witch because I read a book.

[6] I could lend you the book or any number of URLs that would explain that the only “power” I was engaging was the avataristic representation of the four elemental quarters, the kabalistic cross, and all of the symbology of sacred geometry in one fell swoop.

[7] I teach Cultural Diversity and one of my favorite sections is when I teach (yes, I teach this to Freshmen) Anne Fausto-Sterling’s  Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality (2000) and/or “The Five Sexes: Why Male and Female Are Not Enough.” (The Sciences: 1993. 20-24.)

[8] Not all of us, true. But enough of our brothers and sisters that we should not discount their experiences.

[9] But I will also Fuck-You-Up if you mess with one of my sisters. Especially if that particular sister has been shat upon by every other segment of society and has run to our (mutual) Goddess for protection. Bettah duck.

Gretchen Wilson, "Redneck Women" - click to play

[10]Can I get a big “hell yeah” and “yee-haw” from the other cis-girls like me?

[11] I think. I think those is the right words, yes?

[12] As Momma Monster says, “There’s nothing wrong with loving who you are / . . .cause [S]He made you perfect” just the way you are, “Cause God makes no mistakes” and neither does the Lady. You gotta know TBW is pissed when she goes Gaga.

[13] Not to be read as “Fuck y’all.” Commas make a world of difference.

This post is (make up work for) part of a year-long project. Rowan Pendragon’s The Pagan Blog Project; “a way to spend a full year dedicating time each week very specifically to studying, reflecting, and sharing . . . .    The project consists of a single blog post each week posted on prompt that will focus on a letter of the alphabet” (http://onewitchsway.com/pbp2012/).