Saturday, November 14, 2015

Why I Cannot (and Will Not) Accept Eldership from a Transphobic Person

[TW for transphobia]

In the last few days, I have been made aware that there are a handful of so-called elders in the Pagan community who have said and done some really nasty, hurtful, and bigoted things towards trans* women. Some of these things include, but are not limited to, referring to Caitlyn Jenner by the wrong name and violently misgendering her by referring to her as "an old drag queen" and referring to her biologically male anatomy as alleged proof that she is not a "real" woman (implying that all trans* women are not "real" women), and refusing trans* women access to women's-only circles on the basis that trans* women are "women with penises" and that only "women-born-women" should be allowed access to that sacred space. Put simply, they have gone out of their way to deny trans* women access to circle and other forms of ritual space dedicated to women because they do not believe that trans* women are "real" women, and they have gone out of their way to let trans* women know that they are not welcome in the Pagan community.

There are many in the Pagan community who have had enough and are taking a stand against this bigotry and hatred. There are also many in the Pagan community who are defending their words and actions on the premise that everyone is entitled to their beliefs. They defend their words and actions because they are elders of the community and those words and actions, no matter how harmful, should be left alone. It seems that, by calling them out on their bigotry and hatred, we are stepping on their contributions to the community at large, and apparently it's more important to preserve their legacy than taint it by holding them accountable.

I have no other way to respond to this other than to say (and I promise this is the only time I will curse), "That's fucking bullshit."

When your beliefs cause you to intentionally, violently, and virulently misgender people and deny them their humanity and basic respect, they are not worth defending. 

What we have is multiple Pagan elders repeating the message that trans* individuals (trans* women in particular) aren't "really" their gender. What we have is multiple Pagan elders using old, tired rhetoric of biological anatomy as "proof" of gender authenticity (or inauthenticity), and using that "proof" as an excuse to deny trans* people access to sacred space. What we have is trans* women being told by multiple Pagan "elders" that they don't belong in "women-only" circles because they're not "real" women. That is the textbook definition of bigotry.

Pagan elders are supposed to be a pillar of support and are supposed to help guide people along their chosen path. They are supposed to provide a safe space for individuals to explore the greater mysteries. They are not supposed to pick and choose who gets access to these mysteries and who doesn't based on their gender and then go out of their way to make sure that those who are not of the chosen group understand that they are not welcome. That is bullying. That is bigotry. And that is not how an elder of ANY community is supposed to act.

It's high time we started calling these elders out on their transphobia. There are some who argue that calling them out and denying them support from the community will do nothing to help them learn. I disagree. Losing a large chunk of their community's presence, respect, and support as a direct result of their transphobic words and actions is a great lesson. It's a lesson that there are consequences to saying discriminatory, hurtful things about members of their community because of their gender--it's a lesson that you don't get to violently misgender trans* individuals and deny them basic respect, that you don't get to deny trans* women access to ritual space because they are trans* women, and still hold a position of power.  

Many in the community are arguing that this is an attack on their free speech--certainly, they're free to speak as they wish. They're even free to continue to deny trans* women access to women's-only space if they feel they must. However, they have to learn that there are consequences to their bigotry--in this case, the consequence is that no one will want to follow them. 

Long story short, I refuse to accept an "Elder" who picks and chooses who they will support and who they will allow access to the greater mysteries of magick. Last I checked, the deities (many of whom are of one, two, or many genders) love and accept all, regardless of gender.

It's high time these "elders" remembered that.

To quote someone who I consider an actual Pagan elder, "I don’t want to go where my kin can’t follow."

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