Monday, February 20, 2012

D is for Diversity

So this years theme for PantheaCon was "Unity in Diversity," which I confess was a theme I had considered for our own organization in the past.

One of the reasons for that consideration was because our organization and our tradition offers itself as a secondary tradition, internally among our initiated members as well as externally toward the Pagan community we serve. Our initiated members are not required to hold the same system of practice, system of belief, worship the same God(s) or even hold the same understanding or view of divinity. You don't even have to be Wiccan. We honor our diversity within and without, and employ our tradition as an interfaith utility. You can take it or leave it.

That being said; we have had some challenging individuals attend our community rituals and have had to politely pull people aside and ask them to govern themselves a bit more accordingly and with respect for our religious service. And on a very rare occasion invite someone to leave, but these have always been done gently and as a last resort, for the benefit of the group.

But, within the privacy of our initiated Coven we reserve the right to deny entrance to petitioners, without explanation. I will say that our reasons are not based on race, gender, social, economic or religious background. Although we have learned what to look for and what to watch out for, our reasons are simply based on the individual and on a case by case basis. We have the right as a private group to do that, and I would argue that we also have a right to place any requirement or restrictions we see fit on our community rituals as well.

A huge conflict erupted last year when Transgender women were excluded from attending a women's only ritual at PantheaCon, which is a public event. I remained silent on the issue because although I do have friends involved and do have an opinion which I feel passionately about, I really didn't feel it was my place to interject.

Much like the "Who is or isn't Pagan" and my favorite "Who is and isn't Wiccan," I have become very conservative with my personal energies, and just do what I do, say what I say, call myself what I want and not worry so much about everyone else who is arguing about it. And I have been very happy with the results.

But last years issues have surfaced during this years PantheaCon, or after it. My former editor Steve Provost chimed in on the topic over at The Provocation with a piece titled "Dear PantheaCon: Bigotry in the Name of Diversity is NOT Ok."

And Star Foster has also written in regard to their interactions and the topic in which they disagree at the PANTHEON; Should There Be Freedom of Religion Within Paganism?

I read the word tolerance used in these blogs and immediately thought of Devin Hunter's So[u]lutions Blog entry "Tolerating Men and Transgender Individuals in Goddess Spirituality"
Which I thought was a great piece of work. I related to it as a white guy who was in a black fraternity. It was while deployed to Korea that I first joined the Freemasons, the Prince Hall Freemasons. And while I acknowledge there was perhaps one or two brothers who "tolerated" my presence, I was accepted by the Lodge and a large group of men who call me brother despite our differences. I was never made to feel out of place or discriminated against, in fact I served as the Senior Deacon before my time in country came to an end.

I confess that my time and money at this years event was very well spent and that I was completely ignorant to any tension to such issues. I saw old friends and made new ones. I saw people I don't care for much and I heard things I disagreed with or didn't like, but I after examining my feelings I don't feel as through I "tolerated" those words or people I didn't agree with, and I didn't feel as though my presence or words were "tolerated." We were all there for the same reasons, despite our differences, that IS unity in diversity and I was happy to be apart of it.

I may disagree with Z. but she has a right to her opinion. I may not agree with the exclusive context of her rituals, but she also has that right. I may not feel that a public event like PantheaCon is the best place for her "exclusive" ritual, but I understand that the women who may benefit from it, may not be able to attend otherwise. As much as they may hate me for having a penis, I would not prohibit their presence, their freedom of speech, their freedom to exercise their particular brand of religion.

I would not stop them, even if I had the power to do so.

I served my country for ten years. I support your rights and freedoms. Even if your rights and freedoms are aimed at stopping mine, that's not tolerance, that is unity in diversity.

Take it or leave it.

Thank you Lord & Lady for making us all different, Blessed Be.


Bex vanKoot said...

"I may not feel that a public event like PantheaCon is the best place for her "exclusive" ritual, but I understand that the women who may benefit from it, may not be able to attend otherwise."

This! This is my opinion exactly. I know firsthand that "exclusive" safe spaces can be incredibly healing and empowering in ways that "open" rituals can't. I don't believe that denying someone that right is somehow better than denying someone else the right to be part of anything they want, regardless of the feelings of the group.

KRFoster said...

I have clumsily been trying to express this exact opinion for a week now. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

It's no coincidence that Z Budapest's rhetoric reads like a broadside from the feminist movement of the 1970's. That is when her generation initially fulminated their life-long animosity toward transwomen, and that is why this is at root a dispute between generations.

For those interested in the actual source of Z Budapest's ritual beliefs, check out the decades-long controversy over the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. That is the culture she is attempting to insinuate into the Pagan world:

Raphael said...

Men and Women are different. It is good to have both genders in a ritual, if you want to concentrate on the balance. But there are other purposes to rituals, too.

Everyone knows that women talk differently if there is one man present. Same with rituals. I, as a man, absolutely respect the wish to have women-only rituals. (As long as they do not think, that men are inferior, but just different.)

Men who have their penis cut off and take hormons, might still be valuable human beings, but are not women. They still walk like men, look like men, smell like men, talk and sound like men and, in a ritual, they FEEL like men, as much as they wish otherwise.

I definitely feel the need to support the necessity to have rituals for women only, just as there are rituals for men only. I wonder, why, in a nature-based religion, there even can be a discussion about it.