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February 22nd, 2012

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10:19 pm - Musings On PantheaCon and Oppression
The San Francisco neopagan gathering PantheaCon happened last weekend, and while I wasn't there, I know many people who were. Like last year, there was an incident involving a group of Dianic pagans (led by well-known Dianic elder Z. Budapest) excluding transwomen from their rituals. Last year, they didn't state this and instead refused entrance to anyone who they thought might not have been born female. Rightfully so, there was a fairly impressive outcry about this sort of bigoted nonsense. To make matters worse, Z. Budapest posted a vile transphobic screed that is discussed and quoted here.

This year, the same group, led by Z. Budapest had another ritual, which on the program they listed as for "genetic women only". There was a silent protest out front of this ritual, which my good friend lupagreenwolf attended – here's her account of the experience.

Many people have discussed the obvious problems with this sort of bigotry, which are even more obviously egregious because in the 1960s and 70s, one reason that Dianic Wicca cam about what the lesbians and gay men were frequently excluded from traditional Wiccan covens, including those run by various important Wiccans, because they "had the wrong sort of energies". There were even some early women only covens and groups that excluded lesbians for the same reason.

However, it's also true that Z. Budapest and her fellow bigots are obviously entirely within their rights to worship as they please and to exclude who they wish from their rituals. I've also heard of a few openly racist pagan groups that exclude people of color. I think openly condemning Z. Budapest and the other members of her group allows people to let off steam, but also isn't going to change anything.

What I see as the far more important issue is that PantheaCon is open to all pagans, and collects money from all who attend. So, I ultimately see the problem as being that the people who run PantheaCon allow people who put on rituals at the gathering, which are open to attendees, which are also openly bigoted. To me that important thing to do is to call the people running PantheaCon to task about this issue, including organizing an email campaign and if necessary, a boycott.

It's easy to see how the people who run PantheaCon got into this position – the reason is all about gaining access to resources, including money, social capital, and prestige. A pagan gathering that theoretically welcomes all pagans, including both transpeople and their friends and allies, as well as transphobic people, and allows all of these people to put on programs based on their own agendas will obviously have more attendees and more positive press than one that either openly states that the exclusion of trans-people is acceptable or which forbids this sort of bigotry.

The first choice would cause many trans people and their friends and allies to speak out against PantheaCon and would likely cause many of them not to attend, the second choice would almost certainly cause Z. Budapest and her group to cease performing rituals there and might cause them to not attend. Either result costs the people running the event money, social capital, and prestige. In the absence of strong pressure to do otherwise, the best policy for the people running PantheaCon is to say and do nothing, to forbid nothing, and thus to have the various groups attack one another, while continuing to have all such people to attend PantheaCon.

I see this as the same sort of pseudo-liberal dodge that causes radio and TV networks to permit open bigots to work as commentators and spew their hate over the airwaves, and the solution is identical – call the people running PantheaCon out on this sort of nonsense, and at that point they'll need to decide whether they will side with the bigots or the victims of bigotry. Something that I've repeatedly seen is that when groups like convention organizers, TV stations, or whatever pretend to be non-partisan, they typically end up supporting bigots and the best way to change the situation is to force them to actually choose a side.

In any case, here's contact info for PantheaCon as well as contact info for the pagan store Ancient Ways that sponsors it and that is run by the organizer.
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

(6 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:February 23rd, 2012 08:19 am (UTC)
I'm with you on this. I attended PantheaCon this year, but was too caught up in my own ritual (which was playfully but explicitly tagged as "all genders" in mild response to last year's bigoted nonsense) to realize what was happening until after I got home.

I don't want my money going to events that exclude trans women.

Next year, I plan to submit my application to programming again, but to note that I'll have to decline and cancel if they have a "genetic women only" or equivalent event again. I hope that others do the same so that the people who are planning programming will make a better decision this time.
[User Picture]
Date:February 23rd, 2012 01:13 pm (UTC)
Excellent idea.

[User Picture]
Date:February 23rd, 2012 02:33 pm (UTC)
I hate the fact that "Dianic" is getting tied so closely with this kind of narrow-minded bigotry that one sometimes finds in second-wave feminists. I identify as Dianic, and yet, you know, I think of women-only as including ALL women, trans or otherwise.

I noted to Akycha the other night that perhaps we needed a different term to differentiate from the transphobic Dianics. "Artemisian", perhaps.
[User Picture]
Date:February 23rd, 2012 10:58 pm (UTC)
"Artemisian" is a lovely term! I'll need to swipe it and use it myself!

Thank you for your pithy and wise comment. Dianics do have a very unfortunate reputation in the pagan community because of nonsense perpetrated by Z. Budapest and friends on some issues.

I, too, think of "women-only" as including ALL women, whether trans- or cis-gendered. Ironically, transmen would have been able to attend that ritual, since they would be defined as women. (Of course, a transman would presumably not want to be in a woman-only space.)
[User Picture]
Date:February 23rd, 2012 03:47 pm (UTC)
I don't think banning them for this would be effective, then it just turns into an issue of martyrdom. Let them hold ciswomen only events, in much the same way there can be transwomen events, I think a double standard of only allowing some groups to have specific requirements sets a bad precedent.

However, they need to be respectful of others in the event related communication. They have to learn the appropriate language. Ciswomen events instead of this genetic nonsense. If they call transwomen men than that is a reason to ban them from an event. It's a lot harder to look like an underdog when you're banned for not being respectful towards other participants. Encourage people to protest the rituals. Let them fight an unpopular uphill battle, but make them very aware that is what they are doing.

I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on the value of cis-specific spaces. I think it's a quasi-effective attempt to address a cultural gap for which I don't think we really have terms. But that's a long conversation I don't know if you want to have in this space, and I don't want to come off as "But what about the cis" in a post about transphobia.

[User Picture]
Date:February 23rd, 2012 09:36 pm (UTC)
I'm not talking about banning the Dianics. My idea is to forbid discriminatory rituals. So, Z and company would be free to attend or to hold rituals open to all women, but not to discriminate against transwomen. Otherwise, the people who run the event are asking transwomen and their friends and allies to pay money to help fund discriminatory events.

There are already gender fluid events at PantheaCon, that's not the point. From my PoV, the point is that a con that allowed events that were specifically only open to white people would not be any less offensive if there were also events that were open to people of all races or only to black people. I see this issue as identical.

I also don't believe that anyone is going to change the minds of the bigoted Dianics anytime soon, and I frankly don't care. What I want is to minimize the harm they do to others.

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