Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Women's Pagan Groups and Male Opinions

Very strong and stubborn opinion time: I very deeply believe that women's Pagan groups that exclude trans women are acting on bigoted, largely made-up premises.  These groups view women's mysteries as primarily physical mysteries--menstruation, childbirth, having a womb, etc.--but would any of them ban a cis woman who did not experience these things?  Some do.  But more often than not there are excuses.  Cis women without wombs have "womb-space."  Cis women who never menstruated due to physical or hormonal issues have "shared experience."  No explanation as to why trans women would not have womb-space or how they figure all women have shared experiences (isn't that one of the issues womanists and feminists of color have been rightfully going on about?).

I acknowledge the right of women's groups to exclude whoever they want.  But then again, I also acknowledge the right of Christian churches to exclude gays.  Doesn't mean they don't deserve ample social criticism.

I do not acknowledge the right of women's groups to exclude trans women at public rituals, especially when they have not advertised the event as being exclusive.  What it boils down to, because most trans women do not wear signs around their necks saying they're trans, is that they wind up being turned away at the door for looking trans.  And not everyone who looks trans to a transphobic bigot actually is.

Which brings me to the subject that got me thinking about this.  A prominent male Dianic was heckled by a TERFy Dianic woman who insisted he was a trans man who transitioned and still thought he still had the right to occupy that space.  After this occurrence I'm suddenly seeing men talking about transgender inclusion in Dianic rituals.  Not a lot, mind you.  But enough.  Talking about transgender inclusion in Paganism is incredibly important, but I feel I need to point out that some of these elements are problematic.

First, there's a bit of label confusion here.  The reason I say "women's Pagan groups" instead of "Dianics" is because "Dianic" is not just one thing.  There are exclusive, women's-only Dianic groups.  Some are cis women only, others are inclusive of trans women.  There are also inclusive Dianic covens that allow all genders, including men.  And there are solitary devotees of Diana who may refer to themselves as Dianic without any of the commonly-stereotyped rules of Dianic Paganism.

These all get conflated.  So people say "Dianic" when they really mean "exclusive, women's-only covens," or assume that because they know a Dianic man that means all covens obviously would be just fine if they allowed men, or in the case of the aforementioned heckler they assume that everyone who is in a Dianic coven must have been at one time a woman or they wouldn't have been let in, or some other garbage.

There are Dianic covens and groups that are women-only.  That's OK.  It's OK for the same reason safe space for minorities is OK.  There are women who do not feel they can reach their full spiritual potential in space men also occupy because of men's tendency to use privilege.  There are women who are also extremely uncomfortable with women-only groups.  That's also OK.

What's not OK is making this issue about men.  And that's what's happening here... people are taking an issue relevant to women--cis women, trans women, intersex women, and so on--and using maleness to explain away the actual issues at hand.  But the issue here isn't that men are being excluded from Dianic covens... it's that trans people--usually women but men as well--are having our genders devalued by TERFy women's groups.

What's even more interesting is that the catalyst here was a case of mistaken identity in which a cis man was misidentified as a trans man.  The heckler's presumption and attitude were certainly fucked up, bigoted, and inaccurate, but she actually highlights a real problem:  There are trans men who for some reason feel they have the right to occupy women's space.  I mean, watch "Transgeneration" some time if you want to watch trans men moan about how a women's-only college doesn't accommodate them.  I know that some of you are going to be pissed off that I'd be so blunt, but unless we're talking about something involving medical needs, you don't fucking belong there.  I mean, we don't fucking belong there.  I don't buy the "I paid my dues" bullshit boasted by trans men who do ludicrous shit like expose themselves at MichFest.  Get the fuck out.  Really.

The relevant issue isn't whether men can be Dianics or trans men can occupy women's space.  The former is certainly true for some forms of Dianic Paganism, and no, trans men shouldn't occupy women's space.  The relevant issue is transmisogyny and the offensive de-womanization of trans women by high-profile women's Pagan groups and their leaders.

So while I do commend that this is being talked about, framing it as an all-gender inclusiveness issue instead of a women's issue misses the point and takes trans women out of the center of the issue.