I assume that most of my Pagan readership has read about the woman (separatist Dianic Witch) vs woman (trans woman, intersex women, gender queer women) issue at Pantheacon: that some trans women were not allow to attend a woman's ritual (apparently including one woman who had already had bottom surgery). If you missed it - check out the threads at The Wild Hunt, at Patheos, and most of all at http://fruitofpain.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/in-response-to-the-lilith-rite-at-pantheacon. Oh, it's covered other places as well, trust me.
While I've posted a reply or two on all those sites, it's time for me to 'officially' address it here on my very own blog.
I'm going to focus on just a few things, and not some other things:
1 - I'm not speaking as a diplomat, so assume that if I screw up on some language/reference it's not to be offensive. I promise to let you know when I'm trying to be offensive. I'm trying to be 'good' here - I even left out the words 'just fucking' before the word "assume" in the previous sentence.
2 - Transexual women ARE 'born women'. I'm not speaking FOR the transexual community here, I'm quoting the transexual community and my friends within it. I cannot and will not deny their experiences and lives.
3 - The US constitution gives everyone freedom of association and assembly. For the purposes of THIS blog post, however, I'm not going to address private groups and criteria for membership, or private (not mixed group) venues. Instead....
4 - I'm going to focus on rituals/workshops/etc held at Pagan conferences/festivals, where the space is paid for by EVERY paid attendee (and where presenters may have rooms/meals/transportation/etc comped by those in charge of the event. AND where everyone separates and goes home away from almost all of the presenters afterwords.
A) What are the PURPOSES of Pagan Conferences?
A conference is NOT a meeting of a tradition
I totally admit I have a set of biases here.
A Pagan conference is not the same as a gathering of a particular pagan tradition.
For me, a Pagan Conference is all about introducing people in the pagan community to others in the community, to find out about and experience open rituals for different traditions, to attend workshops, lectures, etc to find out about new things.
It's about open rituals, darlings, open lectures, open workshops.
In my view, at no conference would it be appropriate for, say, one tradition to be given a conference room by the conference management to do, say, their private initiations, leaving out non-tradition members at the conference. I would see that as inappropriate.
Now, as Pantheacon's web site points out, many traditions there had their own hospitality suites (presumably paid for by the traditions themselves). For a trad to say "hey, lots of us will be at this conference, how about we do some long-awaited working there privately, in our own suite" - cool. A tradition-specific, and tradition-paid-for, hospitality suite is private tradition space in such a context.
But for a tradition to use conference paid for space for a tradition-only ritual - no. Conferences should not be subsidizing specific traditions private events.
I'm going to copy and paste a statement from Sacred Space Conference, held last month in Maryland, because I love how they word this:
The Sacred Space Conference is a place and time of respectful sharing and thoughtful learning among the many rich and varied traditions, beliefs, paths and organizations found in the DC/Baltimore metropolitan region, the surrounding Mid-Atlantic area, and the world. It is our hope that through this conference we will increase understanding and religious tolerance between the many traditions within the esoteric community, as well as within the public at large.
Sharing and learning among.
B) Conferences and festivals are NOT good places to do deep transformative work.
I suppose that to some folks, I just typed heresy.
But I stand by the statement.
Truly deep transformative rituals should be done in a group close to home, a group that the individuals are already intimate with, groups that can and WILL do intimate follow up with the people afterwords. You don't do life changing rituals - and that INCLUDES deep healings, not that anyone has said what the ritual in question aimed to to at Pantheacon - and then let the participants loose in the world. At BEST, some level of personal chaos is going to be kicked up by such rituals. At worst, psychotic breaks.
In either case, or anywhere in between, you don't abandon the participants to float off on their own after such a ritual.
I'm going to end this here, tho' I believe that entire books could be written on this.