Some of you may remember that last year at PantheaCon there was a bit of a dust-up: Z. Budapest, a great feminist leader of Dianic paganism, held a women-only circle that was advertised as being for all women, to celebrate the diversity of femininity. Trans* women were turned away at the door.
Lots of talking happened afterward. CAYA held a conference to discuss trans* inclusion in pagan rituals, an anthology was published as a result (I was never able to fully endorse this conference because I never got an answer about how many Trans* people were invited to attend and speak as authorities on their own experience). This year, PantheaCon chose "Unity and Diversity" as their theme, and Z. Budapest attended again. Her only contribution? A Dianic ritual circle "For Genetic Women Only".
There is not enough desk for the amount of head-desking I am doing.
Upon discovering this clear slap in the face of pagan trans* women, T. Thorn Coyle organized a silent protest which was, by the accounts I've heard, decently well-attended. Several pagan elders and a lot of pagan bloggers have been weighing in on the issue, and I am sorry to say that transphobic apologia has been dominating the discourse. My attempts to weigh in were deleted even though I was quite polite, so I've dropped many other pagan writers from my blog-roll with equal amounts of regret and disgust - transphobia is a deal-breaker for me. The Dianics are upset that we're challenging their practices and they are protesting that they have a perfect right to build their religion around cisfemale experiences such as menstruating and childbirth, and no one who is not a cis woman could possibly understand. Some of this is true - they have a perfect right to do that. However, that no one but a cis woman could understand these experiences is NOT true. A trans* man could understand them. A cis woman who had a hysterectomy would likely feel excluded (and several such women have been trying to talk about the exclusion they feel when they try to participate in such 'feminine' mysteries). What about one of my best friends, who has Cogenital Adrenal Hydroplasia? She's assigned female, genderqueer, and her chromosomes do not match her assignment, but she has a womb and a vagina. She menstruates irregularly and trying to have a child would probably kill her. Where does she fit in? Where do men with XXY chromosomes or XYY chromosomes fit in? Think that's too rare to matter? It's not. 1 in 300 men who are assigned male at birth and identify as cis men do not actually have an XY chromsome. Does Z. Budapest even know SHE is a genetic woman? Has she had a DNA test to find out? When you peel back the thick skin of human ignorance of sex and gender, when you see the wondrous diversity of human sex and gender and how it absolutely does NOT fit neatly into two easily-labeled boxes, you begin to see how phrases like 'genetic women only' are ludicrous, ignorant, and hurtful.
Z. Budapest has a history of transphobic statements. She believes trans* women are just men who are leveraging patriarchal privilege in order to invade woman-only spaces. To believe that trans* women as a community have patriarchal privilege is just plain ludicrous - trans* people are raped, murdered, assaulted, and victimized at a rate up to SEVENTEEN TIMES HIGHER than that of the general population. They outstrip EVERY other marginalized population, including Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals, in terms of how often they are victimized specifically because of their axis of oppression, i.e. their gender identity. What we have here is a group with two axes of oppression (female, pagan) using their cis privilege as leverage to marginalize another group, and that makes me spitting mad. I won't sugar-coat it... I am FURIOUS at this behavior. I'm furious at the people who are defending it. I'm furious at the organizers of PantheaCon for allowing this in light of what happened last year. This year's theme is Unity and Diversity... really? REALLY? This looks to me like lip service, and when it comes to being genuinely inclusive and supportive of marginalized populations, there is no room for lip service. We have to put our money where our mouths are.
Dianics (and they are not all like this, I feel the need to say - plenty of Dianic covens include trans* people and men) have a perfect right to restrict their religious practices to cis women with functioning wombs who menstruate. This is a free country. But they do not have the right to have their religious bigotry go unchallenged by the rest of us. Paganism is, in general, a progressive, inclusive, socially just, ecologically mindful group of faiths. When our elders show their asses like this, it's a kick in the teeth to the rest of us who really want to be able to trust to their wisdom, but find it very difficult when they act like bigots. And for trans* people, this is a slap in the face. There is no way to interpret "Genetic women only" except as "trans* women are deliberately and specifically being excluded. We don't want your kind here." The fact that Z. Budapest and other pagans in the blogosphere are actively and specifically silencing the voices of trans* pagans and their allies only contributes to that narrative.
So for those who are determined to try and justify the bigotry, I'm sorry, I stand with my trans* siblings. You have a right to your beliefs, your rituals, and your practices. The fact that you have a right to them does not mean they are not bigoted. Trans* exclusion is bigotry. Trans* women are women. Period. And I'm not going to shut up about it, because my trans* siblings deserve to know that they don't stand alone protesting this treatment.
ETA: Edited for preferred terminology and to reflect that the words 'trans' and 'cis' are adjectives, not prefixes