Holding Beloved Community


Yesterday afternoon, in a packed ballroom, I spoke of our ancestor Dr. Martin Luther King's concept of "the Beloved Community" and how, for Pagans, we can expand that concept to ever larger and larger spheres of beings. Our cosmos, and indeed, other possible multiverses in the body of God Herself can be included.

Z. Budapest is part of our beloved community. I honor the work she and our foremothers have done to enable the rest of us to worship as we will. Sometimes we need to gently tell members of our beloved community that we feel they are in error. There are many ways to do this. Last year, we tried dialogue. Much was written and discussed on the issue of trans inclusion or exclusion. A whole conference was organized to help further this. An anthology was just published to continue the conversation. Steps were taken by CAYA, around whom much of last year's controversy centered, to rectify the situation, including the planning of two rituals this year: one for self-identified women and one pan-Dianic rite for all genders.

The only words attributed to Z as part of the conversation of anger, exploration and healing last year felt ugly, hateful, and inflammatory to me, and this year, her one offering to our collective included the words "genetic women only." After all the work so many put in last year, my heart could not let this stand unmarked. So I decided to engage in another form of dialogue: sitting in silence. Z has the right to perform her ritual. I have a right to sit outside in silence and prayer.

When Mary Daly died, as part of my obituary for her, I wrote these words, many of which could be applied to Z:

"The Goddess Movement would not be the same without her. Contemporary Paganism would not be the same without the Goddess Movement. The radical essentialism of thinkers like Daly was a challenge to the pole that said "only men can communicate with the divine". That pillar that she went up against? Mostly it has changed, leaving behind laughable relics, some of whom unfortunately still hold a measure of power. Yes, inequality still exists and yes, I am still a feminist, but things have gotten better. Much, much better. I don't know if Mary Daly was able to see the battles she actually won."

Women like Budapest and Daly have challenged privilege. For this, I remain grateful. Those who challenge privilege are also well served to examine our own. To write of privilege - and indeed this current situation at Pantheacon - would take more nuance than I have time for this morning before preparing for the first of many panels I participate in today, but all we have to do is read the roster of women murdered each year for being trans to know that oppression of trans women is a stark reality. Our culture privileges normative gender expression.

The only reason I am writing at all this morning is that Yeshe Rabbit issued a challenge I am not an opponent of Z Budapest, Yeshe Rabbit. She is part of the Beloved Community, and as such, I will hold her in the quiet spaces of my heart, between 8:45 and 9:15 tonight.

I will attempt to hold us all, to the best of my abilities.

Respectfully - T. Thorn Coyle

62 Responses to “Holding Beloved Community”

  1. Raven

    I appreciate more than words can say that you are standing up for this. I have a trans-son, and I know the difficult journey this is and how much it hurts a persons soul to be told by others who they are. We each have the right to identify who we are to others without them telling us we are wrong. All blessings to you for being a light in the dark.

  2. Harlequin

    Thanks for the great post, Thorn. It can be all to easy to simply cut away seemingly ill-fitting branches from the tree that is our community, without wondering how best to nurse them back to ‘health’. (Apologies for the poor analogy!).

    While certainly honouring the work that Z has done, I find it incredible how stubborn she seems to be over this issue. I fear that as a seminal Pagan voice, she is marginalizing herself to the point where she will no longer be respected by many in our community.

    Wishing you well on your sitting, and blessings from across the pond!


  3. Alison Leigh Lilly

    It’s been heartening to see the gradual blossoming of discourse and conversation about these topics over the past year as a result of last year’s controversy at Pantheacon, and it’s really good to hear that CAYA has taken steps to redress the issue at this year’s festival. I’m sorry to hear that in other ways exclusion is still very much a problem – though I think maybe it would have been a lot to expect such a complex issue to be resolved in only twelve months. Last year’s controversy stemmed from language that was meant to draw community boundaries but was too ambiguous and so led to confusion and unexpected discrimination. From what I can tell this year (as someone who doesn’t have the privilege of being able to attend the festival at all), the controversy is now language that is too explicit in trying to draw those same boundaries. Perhaps silence and contemplative practice is the best approach to the difficult process of discernment at times when language seems too indelicate and distracting a tool, swinging first one way and then the other around painful issues that are much harder to articulate.

    As valuable as silence is, I hope the dialogue continues also, from a centered place for everyone involved, and doesn’t just become an excuse for forming factions and in-fighting.

  4. Jocelyne Houghton

    Thank you, Thorn. Your response to Z is a compassionate and healthy one. You have my energy and prayers behind you tonight, for the benefit of our Beloved Community.

    Waes hal and Blessed Be.

    Jocelyne, Lady Jake

  5. Leanne

    “how much it hurts a persons soul to be told by others who they are”

    This sings to me in a way I cannot voice.

    I feel for Z – she must have reasons for feeling as she does. And I feel for those brave souls who step onto paths without any confidence that they will be welcomed and accepted, but do it anyway. There is a place for all of us in our beloved community, and this conversation is an integral part of that.

  6. Aeptha

    Here at Light Haven we join you in love of Community to hold the Light to softly illuminate greater possibility.

  7. SherryinDC

    Thorn – thank you for this. I hold Mary Daly and Z as my spiritual foremothers and I appreciate you for saying, “I don’t know if [she] was able to see the battles she actually won.” I have transwomen in my life who have taught me as well, about discrimination and privilege and the pain of manifesting one’s Authentic Self in a society that, on the whole, seems to lack the compassion and imagination to comprehend (much less embrace) that Self. I will be with you in spirit as you sit.

    • Thorn

      Anyone who wishes to sit in silence is welcome to join us.

      My personal intention is to sit with an open heart and mind.

  8. Star Weaver

    Thank you, Thorn, for bringing this issue to the attention of those of us not able to attend Pantheacon. When I lived in New Orleans, I led a women’s circle that included a transgender woman in the middle stages of her transformation. Being part of a women’s circle–being accepted as and treated like a woman by her Circle Sisters–was a huge part of her transformation process.

    I invited her into the circle in part because of the support it would provide to her, and in part to challenge the rest of the circle, myself included, to open our hearts a little wider and expand our our vision of the possible. Eight months after she joined us, we all stood up with her as she married her girlfriend–two brides in white satin. We all learned from and were blessed by the Beloved Community we created when we opened our hearts to that which was different.

  9. The Watcher On The Hill

    Some 10+ years ago I attended P-con and went to a spiral dance. I have to admit, I “knew” trans people were human, and deserving of all the rights the rest of us have, but they SCARED me. There were other emotions there as well that I am embarrassed to admit, lets just say I bought some pretty stupid propaganda.

    I went to a spiral dance, and during that spiral dance I encountered, up-close and personal a trans person. She smiled at me. The cold armoring broke. I changed.

    I think the reason that change happened is because it was the first time I had encountered such a person in an environment where NEITHER of us had the armor society nearly mandates we each wear. Me through my ridiculous conditioning. Her from what I can only imagine is a perpetual concern for her psychological, spiritual, and even physical safety. A general bracing for disapproval that I can only imagine follows her everywhere else she goes.
    For the first time, I and a transgendered person met in a place where neither of us had to fear rejection, where we felt safety, where (for the first time) each of us could look at the other and genuinely smile. In my case, in a ritual designed to facilitate heart opening. It worked. And I’ve been making friends I would have otherwise stupidly shunned ever since.

    There is a bigger picture to all of this. And that is that these gatherings create a rather unique bubble of openness is what is otherwise a fairly hostile and paranoid world. WE as a community should look past our personal preferences and consider the value that such unique circumstances provide.

    I personally think that such exclusionary practices are not only ridiculous (are there going to be inspectors, one wonders) the also open a can of worms best kept shut. (What other exclusionary rites, in the name of “comfort” might we allow?)

    More importantly they HURT the atmosphere and precedence of unconditional acceptance that facilitate the experience I had.

  10. The Watcher On The Hill

    I meant to add, “As Such, I would love to join you in such a sit.”

  11. Fox Magrathea Circe

    Thank you for continuing to speak out on this with such grace.

  12. Karen

    I was at Z’s self blessing ritual tonight. It was beautiful and powerful and skyclad. I would not have chosen to participate if transgender people had been in the circle. Tonight was a profound spiritual experience that created a unique kind of spiritual energy.

    I honor transgender people. They are sacred. I am so glad that we share the planet together. I have fought for their rights for almost forty years. There are many rituals that I have been honored to participate in with them. I am grateful for those experiences. Trans people make our community so much richer. They are a blessing.

    It makes me sad that other women with wombs were influenced to not participate in the ceremony tonight. They may never experience that unique spiritual healing energy. They may never know that they can love transgender people and still value their own unique energy. It does not have to be either or.

    Indigenous people often choose to practice spiritual rituals that bar non-natives from participation. There are non-Indian people who believe that they are Indians spiritually. I have heard an Indian elder say that they only wanted people who “are Indian in this life”, participating in a certain ceremony. I have participated in Indian ceremonies that barred women who were bleeding. I could have seen this as discrimination against fertile women. But I know that I don’t know everything, especially in regards to the spirituality of a group that has defined themseves as not including me. Of course I am an equal human being, but that does not mean that The Creator made us all the same and intended me to be in every ceremony.

    If people feel the spiritual need to be in ceremonies that don’t include me, that is their right. I support them and encourage them to follow the path they hear the Spirit calling them to. Hopefully the more healed and whole we all become through are unique practices, the more we will be able to treat each other with respect in our communities.

  13. Rabbit

    Dear Thorn,

    I deeply respect your commitment to creating wholeness. I, too, wish to create wholeness. We have different methods. I offer you, not a challenge, but an invitation.

    The thing is, it can be hard for someone to believe you love them, even when you say so, if you have not taken the time to get to know them. I make it my own mission to get to know people- the gritty stuff- I know stories of Z’s life that would make anyone feel tremendous compassion. They are not mine to tell, but she knows that I know them, and hold them. She knows that my love for her and my very honest critique of her actions are able to co-exist. Because she does not know you, nor you her, she cannot see your love the same way she might see mine.

    That clumsy apology she gave tonight? Real. Authentic. Honest. Not very politically savvy. Not very sensitive. “I’m sorry. But I’m still mad. But I really am sorry. And I really, really have a hard time figuring this out.” That was truth. I know her. That was a very real apology that came from her, though it was not polished nor precise. But it was a start. My plan is to keep working at levels that you do not currently have access to, within the Dianic Tradition, Thorn. And my intent is to create the vision of wholeness that I think possible at this time.

    Know that my invitation is to a long-term unfolding. Not a challenge in any way- rather, a very open and honest evolution. I am and have been committed to figuring this out, alongside you but in my own ways, that include patience, compassion, and even getting messy in the mess of the human psyche. Just as you do in your realm.

    What a blessing we have in this now moment, of each holding our piece of the puzzle thoughtfully, and with reverence.

    Blessed be,
    Yeshe Rabbit

  14. Ruadhán

    > While certainly honouring the work that Z has done, I
    > find it incredible how stubborn she seems to be over this
    > issue. I fear that as a seminal Pagan voice, she is
    > marginalizing herself to the point where she will no
    > longer be respected by many in our community.

    Well, how better to prove that she’s still “right” (and thus, her old work still relevant) to the modern community than to be so hateful and unpleasant, and over something to irrelevant to the whole of a gender’s experience that it alienates those who would be allies and supporters, would hold one in esteem through shared experience, if not for this stubbornness of ideology?

    …that said, I do think that there’s a spiritual need for some rituals to be performed by specific sorts of people, for specific reasons linked to mythology, symbolism, and even the odd tradition for its own sake. There’s even a ritual at Pcon 2012 where menstruating women are allowed to observe, but not participate –clearly there’s a way to address these sorts of ritual requirements with civility and an open mind toward all experiences of one gender or another.

    To T. Thorn Coyle:
    I’m confused. The Amazon ritual, according to the Pcon program guide I just downloaded, says simply “SKY CLAD WOMEN ONLY” and requesting that attendants be able to “comfortably stand in the circle as a naked woman”. For the last few months, I’ve seen people say and assume that this is simply a “coded phrase” to keep trans women out, and yours is the first time I’ve seen any-one state that it was for all who self-identify as women. I’m sure I’ll find out more in the next couple weeks, but considering the Amazon group’s statement from Yeshe Rabbit last year really smacked of a victim-blaming non-apology, I’m curious as to what actually became of that particular women-only event.

    • Thorn

      Ruadhan and Henry,

      To my knowledge, Amazon ritual put on by members of CAYA was open to all women who wished to attend skyclad. I could be wrong in my earlier statement.

      Another Dianic ritual was also offered last night, put on by Rabbit, Devin and others that was inclusive to anyone who wished to attend.

      There are many forms of dialogue. I am still pondering last night’s events (after a few hours sleep). Perhaps I will have more to say later.

  15. Henry

    my question is after all the bruhaha of last year, why didn’t trans women and their allies present their own non exclusive womans circle this year?
    I think you’ve missed an opportunity here to expand awareness through experience, rather than seemingly promte a conflict to do so. why not create space so that the same environment ala “watcher on the hill”‘s experience? Silence and dialogue are fine yet being with and experiencing is even better.
    It’s said one can lead a horse to water… but trying to drag one to water ends up exhausting you both.

    • Jessica

      I am responding to this because I am not part of this community and am reading of it for the first time. My own experience is much different, from a more indigenous perspective. In other cultures people who are LGBTQ are gatekeepers. They are those who are able to be in more than one world. In african villages they are outside the village. They stand at the gates to the other world. They hold rituals with each other because they have more in common with each other than the people of the village. However its also the task and responsibility of the village to bring those who are at the edges back to the fire, to maintain connection with the community.

      I wonder how much power can be found in a ritual with people who are LGBTQ. The energy and power is different than an all “female” ritual or an all “male” ritual.

      As a medicine woman I am also a gatekeeper. And while its powerful to be in rituals with my village, my people, its more powerful and meaningful to be with others who are like me. That doesn’t mean that there is a right or wrong. It just is.

      I hope the dialogue continues. This is a powerful part of the process of community. To see each other for who we really are, in all our forms.


  16. Colleen Faler

    It really makes my insides cry to hear of such issues in a path that I have a deep love for and from someone that I have a great deal of respect for. In silent meditation this evening, my intention will be to send out a though: that those that are advocating for this segregation and policy of exclusion have their hearts and minds opened just a smidge more. Then, perhaps a bit more…

  17. Kate LBT

    Henry: It’s entirely possible that they did but it wasn’t accepted by the conference. I offered a presentation on transgender paganism in 2011 to Paganicon (St. Louis Park, MN) this year and it was cut from the conference. I’m also offering a workshop on women’s and queer mythology in the modern day at the same conference, and that did get in.

  18. Marcws Taliesin

    I have a half dozen or so transgender friends. Some have gone through the entire surgical process to become the gender that best matches with their soul. Others have not. They swing both ways: male to female and female to male. But they all identify strongly with their “new” gender, their true authentic selves.

    I’m wondering if the Wiccan Rede applies here: and ye harm no one, do as you will. If I were a transgender woman, I believe I would feel harmed, for the exclusion of who I am from ritual in this case is based entirely upon birth biology and not who I truly am. It seems an arbitrary decision to exclude me based upon who I was, and not who I am. I’m not sure I can honor that.

    Would a woman who crossed over to manhood be excluded from Z’s ritual?

  19. Blake Kirk


    Thank you for acting with love and with compassion and with honor on behalf of those being rejected and excluded. You set us a high example to emulate.

  20. Heartha

    Have been watching the discussion unfold, and both admire and appreciate the thoughtful responses left here.

    Have been watching the discussion unfold, and both admire and appreciate the thoughtful responses left here.

    I noticed myself having reactions to some of what has been posted, and am following a processing spiral. It is an interesting thing to tell someone they are “in error” or are wrong about something, especially a tradition they follow and I don’t. Yet this is precisely what I am personally doing politically – “this is not a Catholic nation and should not be run by one faith”. And so I hold a paradox…. Or some may say hypocritical.

    I heard (I wasn’t there) that a Dianic Women’s ritual was *protested* last year – with signs and chanting. Really can’t imagine how I would have felt had I been there, being protested by members of our larger community, or feeling so strongly that I would take such action.

    I believe the old adage “your rights end at the end of my nose”. Do What Ye Will… and please allow me do the same. But how do we respond when we feel someone we care about has been wronged? If an inclusive-women ritual was offered and declined by the PCon powers that be, I find myself wondering on what grounds.

    “There is room for all at our table.” Perhaps not all at the same time.

    Nature shows us there is time for all things…. a time to rest, to grow, to include, to be alone. How we choose, how we live, not only defines us personally and as a community, but also shapes our future.

    I find myself looking for the third road… both/and, not either/or, and it sounds like that was accomplished at this year’s PCon. Rituals for everyone, not everyone at one ritual.

    Indeed, Love shall be the Way. We spend our lives looking for those spaces in which we “belong”, and may we all find them.

    • Thorn


      Some will disagree with me, but what I feel is “in error” is not the holding of a Dianic ritual for cis-women only. It is not that this ritual occurred at Pantheacon. It was that — after the events, pain, and discussions of the last year, with so many of us doing our level best to learn from one another — we had this ritual led by a public figure who has made hateful comments which she had not retracted, or even apologized for. That this was her only offering to the Pantheacon gathering this year made it feel like even more of a slap in the face to me.

      True pluralism is not simple tolerance. Pluralism requires us to make honest attempts to listen to each other and learn from one another, especially in the midst of strong disagreement. We cannot form a healthy, viable community if we only ever agree, or if we only ever say “you do your thing, I will do mine, and mostly we will ignore each other in the name of mutual tolerance.”

      If we want to work toward love and justice, we must hold each other accountable sometimes and say, “This cannot stand.” Sitting in silent meditation last night was the best way I could think of to peacefully and respectfully say that, despite Z’s potent contributions to the community, the hate speech has gone on for too long.

      Last night, I heard the pain and confusion in Z’s voice as she attempted – and failed – to get through her prepared statement to those gathered. I can be with her in that pain and still want to hold her accountable for words and actions. Public figures, by our sheer weight of influence, hold an even greater responsibility to do our level best to keep the Beloved Community in mind. Z’s influence, as we know, is large. This is not, therefore, only about privately held views and personal religious rites. This is about public discourse.

      Pluralism *requires* open discourse, helped along, when possible, by private conversations. It is up to all of us to steer this process, contributing as best we can.

      Last night, instead of speaking, I sat in the public square, as it were. Eighty nine others – of mixed genders and sexual preferences – sat as well. We sat in silence, and we prayed. Some also wept.

    • Thorn

      Heartha, By the way, in the rush of getting out the door – packing etc – this morning, I meant to thank you for the thoughtfulness of your comment as well, but forgot.

      thanks for contributing (thanks to everyone for contributing).

  21. Vermillion


    Thank you for your comment to Heartha. It has helped explain some more about the ongoing issues, for instance I did not know that this ritual was the ONLY thing Z had contributed to the conference, I was under the belief she was presenting as well. I understand what you mean by a slap in the face and more about why you did what you did.

  22. Ruadhán

    > my question is after all the bruhaha of last year, why
    > didn’t trans women and their allies present their own non
    > exclusive womans circle this year?

    According to the program guide, there’s at least one ritual explicitly stated as open to anybody who identifies as a woman, and at least one such men’s ritual.

    > To my knowledge, Amazon ritual put on by members of
    > CAYA was open to all women who wished to attend
    > skyclad. I could be wrong in my earlier statement.

    Well, for what it’s worth, I hope you weren’t wrong the first time, and everybody else was just being reactionary. To be fair, though, *if* the latter was the case, and people *were* simply being over-reactioned to the words used, it’s honestly because there’s been a long-established precedent giving such folks a reason to feel such an interpretation is true. Maybe CAYA Amazons had little to do with this precedent, but the fact remains that when certain events happen over and over again, in a certain order, people will naturally except A, B, and C to be followed by D, even if this is the *one* time in a million when D was never going to happen.

    > Some will disagree with me, but what I feel is “in
    > error” is not the holding of a Dianic ritual for
    > cis-women only. It is not that this ritual occurred at
    > Pantheacon. It was that — after the events, pain, and
    > discussions of the last year, with so many of us doing
    > our level best to learn from one another — we had this
    > ritual led by a public figure who has made hateful
    > comments which she had not retracted, or even
    > apologized for. That this was her only offering to the
    > Pantheacon gathering this year made it feel like even
    > more of a slap in the face to me.

    That’s about where I’m at, and I couldn’t even afford to attend Pcon either last year or this one –nor am I a woman, for that matter, but a man of TS history. This isn’t about women-only space, or a ritual by-and-for the mysteries particular only to a majority of cisgender women. This was about a public figure who sad some downright hateful things last year and has yet to apologise, much less attempt to take it back, and now here she is this year with a cis-only women’s rit (if it’s even a ritual –I really don’t feel like searching that PDF again) using language that, at this point it’s perfectly reasonable to assume, *she knows* will infuriate people. It’s hard not to take that as a big stinky middle finger to anybody who was hurt, offended, or at least appalled (much less potentially triggered into suicidal –a very real possibility) at the nasty things she said. Of course, at this point, I feel more sorry for her, than anything; I think you might be right: She may just be completely incapable in seeing that some of her dream has come true, that progress has inched along pretty danged far since she first put ink to paper.

  23. Karen

    Thorn, Your statement seems to be saying that since Z has said some things that you define as “hateful” and that she hasn’t apologised in a manner that suits you, that she should not be allowed to offer a woman only ritual at the gathering next year. Wow! Really? Z Budapest should be banned as a presenter because she doesn’t meet your values? And this is all because Z feels that there is a difference between women who are born women and women who used to have a penis, who never had wombs and who need to take hormone pills? Do you also sit in silence in front of Hopi kiva ceremonies? They have never allowed a non-Hopi to participate, even one who really really really feels that they are Hopi but were just born in the wrong body.

    • Thorn


      If you wish to, you may reference this
      where Z calls these women “Transies” and insists that they are men trying to take things from women etc. It feels hateful to me, particularly in light of the sheer numbers of trans women murdered each year.

      I never said Z should be banned, so I’m not sure where you are getting that information. I state quite clearly in my post: “Z has the right to perform her ritual. I have a right to sit outside in silence and prayer.”

      Let’s keep furthering conversation.

      blessings – Thorn

  24. Ruadhán

    > And this is all because Z feels that there is a
    > difference between women who are born women and women who
    > used to have a penis, who never had wombs and who need to
    > take hormone pills

    There are most certainly cisgender women who’ve never had wombs and have to take hormones –which just kind of makes the penis thing seem a little irrelevant, considering that there are other reasons to lack those other physiological functions.

  25. victoria

    I came to Paganism through a Dianic circle, and I left that Dianic circle once people started insisting on spelling the name of those of my gender as “wombyn” and talking about transwomen as men who self-mutilate in order to take over women’s space. I will not ever attend a function limited to “genetic females” or however the exclusionary terms are stated in the future. I know that gender is psycho-socially complex and do not want to be part of any group — particularly any group within the Pagan community — that sets itself up to determine who is female enough to participate.

    I bore four children and, because of some complex medical issues, afterward had to have a hysterectomy when I was only 27 years old. I can remember how horrible I felt when I then went to a ritual at Goddess camp and was told to place my hands above my womb and feel the connection to the other women in the circle. When I said I didn’t have one any longer, all I got was a quizzical and annoyed look from the priestess who was leading the ritual. I made a promise to myself that day that I would never set myself up as the arbiter of anyone’s gender authenticity.

    Thorn, I intended to sit with you last night. Alas, my creaky crone body had to head off to bed instead. But you were in my heart and in my thoughts. I commend your actions and honor the clarity with which you write about this difficult and challenging issue.

  26. Magickal Media Blog » Blog Archive » News for Pagans, Monday, 2-20-12

    […] http://www.thorncoyle.com/2012/02/holding-beloved-community/ T. Thorn Coyle writes about her silent protest at PantheaCon.  One woman explains her feelings in a letter to the “Pagan Newswire Collective”: https://pncminnesota.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/letter-to-the-editor-ciswomen-only-ritual-at-pantheacon/ http://www.patheos.com/blogs/pantheon/2012/02/should-there-be-freedom-of-religion-within-paganism/#disqus_thread  Star Foster writes her opinion on “Pantheon at Patheos”. http://lupabitch.livejournal.com/2531986.html Lupa has a response and a report on the protest.  On “The Provocation”, an opinion that bigotry in the name of diversity is not OK:  http://www.theprovocation.net/2012/02/dear-pantheacon-bigotry-in-name-of.html […]

  27. Amethyst

    Thanks to Thorn and others for holding attention to this matter.

    As a Trans Woman, Activist and Witch, I did not come this year to PantheaCon because I did not feel safe.

    I am angry and that does not make me less of a Witch. I am tired of apologists for Z. She may have done good, but her Transphobia is doing harm. Forgiveness can happen when she takes responsibility. That hasn’t happened yet.

    I am glad to hear CAYA has made changes. CAYA and Rabbit continue to lie. It is stated in the anthology that CAYA hasn’t discriminated against Trans Women in their coven. LIE! They are the Pagan Community’s George Wallace and Lester Maddux. Until they were busted at last year’s PantheaCon, they were covert about their Transphobia. I suspect their changes are a PR response to their bad publicity. Sooner or later, you become known are who you really are.

    Anger is valuable when it leads to social justice. Let us remember that as heinous as racism, sexism, and misogyny and homophobia, is Transphobia. It can’t be rationalized away. The only thing to be done is to change, or you are on the wrong side of justice. Believe me, the Goddess will notice.

  28. Cobalt

    I feel pretty strongly about this. Part of my discomfort with Wicca as it is often practiced is the way it enshrines heteronormativity as a cosmic truth. The only reason I’m still with my local group is that I have discussed this issue with them and they made me feel better about the way they believed and handled themselves and just generally were.

    Treating trans women like they are male infiltrators in disguise is so ugly and damaging, and confirms a lot of my worst fears about where some people can take the shared narratives of our community.

    You also make me feel better.

    Thank you for helping reassure me that my religion as a cultural force is going to continue being a positive one, and not one that holds us back.

    I think the briefest account of my reasoning here is that I don’t know why Pagans should get a free pass to perpetuate transphobia when these are some of the same people who give the side-eye to Christian denominations that won’t ordain women or be inclusive to LGBT people because blah blah religion should never be used as an excuse for discriminatory behavior yada yada I’m a hypocrite because I still don’t want transwomen around in my “safe” spaces.

    I wouldn’t stop Budapest even if I could, but I will call out transphobia when I see it. Criticism isn’t the same as censorship, and it no more takes away her religious freedom to call her a hypocrite and a bigot than when we say the same thing of members of other religions.

    I get that Budapest doesn’t mean to hurt anybody’s feelings (at least not any real people, right?), but if her gender essentialist definition of “woman” is more important to her than the needs of trans people who would otherwise love to be part of her community, then I can only hope that they feel up to taking the extra struggle and hassle and emotional (and, let’s face it, physical) risk involved with finding a group that deserves them, because Budapest’s does not.

  29. Kalisara

    I have a problem with Z. It has nothing to do with her wanting to hold a women-only ritual.

    It has everything to do with her negative attitude towards women.

    She has persistently and consistently held women up as a perfect, impossible icon of world peace and salvation. At the same time, she establishes, through painfully subversive means, what a woman really is.

    I am not a peaceful, emotional, compassionate, patron-of-the-arts feminine woman. I am aggressive, strong, logical, objective woman. My breasts are small; my voice is alto. Do I count as woman enough?

    I’ve birthed two children. So has my mother, who not only underwent a hysterectomy before she was 30, but also may have a genetic disorder that essentially means that she is a born-woman with XY chromosomes. Could my mother attend Z’s “genetic women only” ritual?

    I have a loving relationship with many men on many levels: lovers, friends, children, fathers, partners in life that are NOT significant others. Yet, Z., in her own words (http://blog.zbudapest.com/2012/02/13/nobody-loves-women/) has declared those relationship false. Men universally hate women: that’s Z’s stance.

    I do not worship male gods. I don’t hate males, nor do they hate me. We just don’t have that kind of relationship. I have honored male gods, but they are not my daily worshipful focus. I would have loved to participate in one of Z’s rituals 10, 5, even 2 years ago.

    But now… Now I mourn the loss of a Pagan Community Leader, an Elder. She does not have my respect. She has my pity. Hate such as hers can only elicit pity from me. I hope she will be able to resurrect herself, but it will require a gargantuan effort on her part, and I will not hold my breath, nor hold her hand.

    She will grow, or not. I wash my hands of her.

  30. The Wild Hunt » PantheaCon: Unity, Diversity, Controversy

    […] and who directly participated in the events the Pagan community are now discussing.First, here is T. Thorn Coyle explaining why she decided to organize a peaceful, silent meditation outside Z. Budap…. Thorn’s reasoning was expanded upon in a follow-up post written after the ritual and protest […]

  31. morgansher

    I’m straight, poor and don’t get to travel much. I may or may not know trangendered women and men, though I’m certain I know several gays, lesbians, and bisexuals including my brother. I am also certain I knew one intersexed person (previously called a hermaphrodite.) I know how ignorant and how ill informed I was as a child and that I behaved, during a part of my adolescence, ignorantly

    I also know the capability to become informed rested within me and I chose to learn and expand my views. I know science has recently shown, through CAT and MRI imaging, that the brains of transgendered men and women most closely resemble the genders they identify with. That is – a trangendered woman’s brain has the same characteristics as a ‘born’ woman’s brain. Ditto for FTM transgenders as well.

    So with that knowledge, I hope that on the occasion(s) that I should find myself in a situation where I must choose between a ‘genetic women’s circle’ or an more expansive, embracing circle, that I have the moral courage to choose the more expansive circle to share because if our brains are that much alike, then maybe we’re women born together.

  32. Deb (corvaxgirl)

    I started my path in Paganism as a Dianic Wiccan and as a feminist. While my path has broadened, Dianic Wicca is still an important part of my faith. I agree with your comments about Mary Daly, and I often counsel younger (sometimes more impatient) feminists to understand that things were v. different in the second wave and that we need to try to bridge the gap of understanding between second/third wave.

    That said, at the risk of sounding dramatic, Z. has broken my heart. She was an important person in my religious and academic texts and I had read much of her writing, trying to give space and understanding for a difference in time, place and experience. I was always able to bridge that gap until last year when she made those hurtful comments that she’s never apologized for.

    My Dianic coven does not discriminate based on “bits”, we ask that the women attending be woman-identified. I’m not sure that I agree with a cis-woman only space even as a cis woman but that’s something I’m still personally reflecting on.

    What I can’t get past is her hurtful treatment of our trans-sisters. As such, after much thought between last year and this year, I no longer consider Z. as one of my personal Dianic elders though I do acknowledge her work in the community and her personal struggles.

  33. BrantRedux

    Silence can be the loudest cry. Thank you for this, Thorn.

  34. Sonneillon

    I also have had to wash my hands of Z Budapest. Transphobia, along with other forms of bigotry, is a deal-breaker for me. Part of what really gets to me, especially the transphobia apologia taking place throughout the pagan blogosphere and in these comments as well, is the degree of ignorance being espoused by those who feel like they’re qualified to say who is and who is not the gender they claim to be.

    1 in 300 men, assigned male at birth with masculine genitalia, do not actually have an XY chromosome. 1 in 300. Think about Pantheacon, how many men attended. Think about the last football game you saw. Think about your town, your workplace. 1 in 300. This ‘genetic women only’ business is both ignorant and hurtful. Has Z. Budapest had a DNA test? Does she actually know she’s a ‘genetic’ woman, whatever that means? I’m female-assigned and fine with that, but I’m genderqueer and I lean toward masculinity. I have a womb, I am a mother. Am I invited? One of my best friends has Cogenital Adrenal Hydroplasia. She is assigned-female and chromosomally XXY. No, that was not a typo. Is she invited? Is she a ‘genetic’ female because she has a womb, even though, due to complications from CAH, it would likely kill her to have a child?

    Humanity exists in a degree of diversity that is wondrous, wonderful, and largely ignored in our general discourse. We act like gender and sex are disparate poles. They are not. We act like there are only two categories of any meaning. There are not. Z. Budapest has a history of transphobic statements, and while her contributions to paganism from a feminist perspective have been great, she is still culpable for her own bigotry. She has the right to hold rituals as she wants to hold them, but she does not have the right to go unchallenged, unprotested, and unremarked-upon. Sorry. I stand with my trans* siblings.

  35. Mambo Chita Tann

    As the person who hosted the ceremony that has been mentioned that asked menstruating women to observe and not participate, I must clarify.

    Haitian Vodou is one of THE most open and accepting forms of Afro-Caribbean tradition there is. I am myself a trans ally, and the thought of holding a blatantly discriminatory ceremony, at PantheaCon or anywhere else, is not even part of my vocabulary. Three hundred plus years of discrimination against people of color formed our Vodou. We do not tolerate bigotry in any way, shape, or form.

    The request that menstruating women not participate (in truth all they are asked to do is to not salute the spirit Danbala-Wedo) is not about menstruation or even about women. It is about blood, and ANYONE, cis or trans or more than one gender, is not permitted to be bleeding when serving this spirit. Had I cut myself on the way to the ritual, I would’ve had to exclude myself as well, even if I was in charge of the ritual.

    This tradition was created hundreds of years ago by my ancestors and elders, and I am expected to request it of participants in the ceremonies by the rules of my tradition. It is not intended to shame or exclude anyone, and I was not the blood police who inspected anybody to check either. I simply said “Danbala traditionally hates blood, and we ask that anyone who is bleeding currently for any reason refrain from saluting him.” There are also things that are required, such as a certain color of clothing; the blood taboo is not related to anything having to do with women in any way and is one of many equal taboos in serving Danbala-Wedo.

    If anyone has any questions about that, as I am aware that some people have misunderstood this request this year and in the past and have concerns that I, too, might be discriminating against people in my rituals at PCon, I welcome you to contact me at andezo@gmail.com and I would be very happy to talk about the context and details.

    As for what happened the other night, I wish I could have been there, and I am sorry that I was not able to be, but I was praying for all of you during that time. I hope that we are able to continue to talk through things. I am sad that we have a case of a leader who is not aware of both how much her influence is felt, and what happens when her influence has been felt in such a negative fashion by people who have benefited from her influence in the past. It’s an unenviable position for any of us to be in. If there is never agreement, I at least hope we can all find flat water and understanding as we continue to reach out.

    • Thorn

      Mambo Chita Tann,

      Thank you for sharing this information.

      We all can learn from one another, and it is often the most painful situations that help us toward deeper understanding. I look forward to meeting you someday.

      blessings – Thorn

  36. Mae

    Thank you so much for doing this. My husband is a transgender man and we were both deeply hurt by the ugly and hateful words of last year. Thank you. Thank you.

  37. Marv

    I wish to start this post with a small introduction. I am not a pagan, in fact I am not religous at all. I am however the “den father” and partner to the grove organizer of an ADF grove in Las Vegas, NV. I am also an FTM transman.

    Someone in the above comments made a comment to the effect of why don’t trans woman have their own rites.

    I made this point on my friends face book post and I would like to share it here. Let’s crunch some optimistic numbers. If you take 1000 general public human beings. Perhaps 10% of those people are trans. Then take those 100 trans people and imagine that 10% of them are pagan. Take those 10 trans pagan people and estimate that 50% or 5 of them are female identified. That leaves 5 trans woman identified pagan people. Now take those 5 trans woman identified pagan people and spread them out all over the country. Now do you really think it is possible to have a trans woman identified rite?

    As to the validity on trans women being “real women” I make this point. NO ONE EVER TRIES HARDER TO BE A WOMAN THAT A TRANS WOMAN! The cis gendered woman take your womanhood for granted. You assume that you will wake up tomorrow and still be a woman. You know that people will accept you as the woman that you know yourself to be. A trans woman has to think on some level millions of times a day if what she is doing, wearing, or acting like will make her a passable woman. She puts more thought into her every body movement, and word that comes from her mouth, than any cis woman would even remotely contemplate. A trans woman has been a woman in her brain since birth. When was the last time a cis woman had an ah-ha moment of finally being able to figure out what felt so wrong with their body. Your gender is a basic human process, one that 90% of the world never has to think about. But it is one that those 10% think about EVERYDAY! I believe that there is no one who would get more out of a femininity ritual than a trans woman. To be loved, respected, and accepted into a celebration of the power of womanhood must feel like a true homecoming to a trans woman. To be denied entry into a space, because of a basic birth defect, must feel like the biggest insult and degradation of her femaleness and womanhood. This is not a us versus them. A male versus female issue. This is a HUMAN issue. We must allow human beings to be in spaces that are what they identify as.

    • Rootrealm


      For many years I was a student in the Diamond Heart Approach, a spiritual school emphasizing the cultivation of presence and learning to accept our present moment experience and “be here now.” Before that I was a Buddhist, and the emphasis was similar. The whole concept of “trying to be a woman” seems to me to conflict with the cultivation of presence and the relaxation into the simplicity of who you are. No one has to TRY to be anyone. Everyone simply already is who they are, in a process of unfolding. I see it as an illusion that there is some “woman” who any of us is either trying to achieve, or is taking for granted. Why focus your life on being accepted by others? Why not focus on being here now and accepting yourself, and then, if others accept you, fine, if they don’t, fine. LIving your life for acceptance by others is an ultimately futile endeavor.

      You say, “To be denied entry into a space, because of a basic birth defect, must feel like the biggest insult and degradation of her femaleness and womanhood. This is not a us versus them. A male versus female issue. This is a HUMAN issue. We must allow human beings to be in spaces that are what they identify as.”

      People have a right to self-definition, but I and others also have the right not to be forced into being their rubber stamps. Just because someone self-defines a certain way, does not oblige myself or others to agree with that self-defintion, or make any certain space available for that person. I personally do not see trans women as women, I see them as trans women.
      It also seems to me that many arguments about the rights of trans women to be in spaces for women, are less actual rational arguments, and appear more to be pleas to their hurt and suffering, as well as presumptive statements.

      You say, “To be denied entry into a space, because of a basic birth defect, must be the biggest insult and degradation of her femaleness and womanhood.”

      I do not see trans women as having a basic birth defect, I see them as people not born with women’s bodies, who are consciously choosing to live as women. I do not see them as having “womanhood”, I see them as individuals choosing to live as women. It also seems to me that far too much emphasis is being placed by trans women on having success in breaking into these “last strongholds” of women’s spaces. I would suggest that those who are placing such great value on gaining access to these spaces, for healing or support, or any purpose, really question yourself and your motives. HEaling and support come naturally, we don’t have to break down doors to obtain them forcefully from people reluctant to give these to us.

      It really makes me wonder, why are so many trans women so insistent on finding healing and support among those communities who have shown little interest in having them participate, particularly when there are so many other communities which welcome them with open arms and love? It seems quite strange to me that the fact that someone doesn’t want you in their group would make you feel that very group is just the one you want to go to, to find support.

      • Thorn

        Whether or not Z would ever circle with trans women isn’t the point for me. The point, for me, is for all of us to be willing to treat one another with as much love and respect as we can, and to not actively say insulting things to one another when we are in shared community spaces – such as the internet or Pantheacon.

  38. Red Cedar Cat

    The whole “controversy” misunderstands and disrespects the sacred relationship that women share with the Divine Mother, in whose image SHE is made, and their ability to dance skyclad without fear of being ogled by men, their ability to discuss the Blood Mysteries and share in a rite in a safe and sacred space for women.

    Moon lodges are ancient gatherings for women and men were never allowed. The men had the sweat lodge, and likewise, women did not enter. Each had their own ritual space. And at the major holidays, they came together in ritual space.

    Trans-gendered people do not change their DNA and chromosomal structure, only re-arrange and create artificial body parts, designed to mimic that of the other sex. Having known 2 such people on an intimate basis, and about 6 others as friends, I can say that they desperately wanted to be different people. They believe that modifying their bodies will make them different people.

    So, I make no judgment of those who choose to re-arrange their genitals. However, this does not change their basic nature. Only women bleed and do not die. That’s the key. Trans-gendered women do not, nor ever could, nor ever will, bleed and nourish the earth or children. Establish your own rituals in your own safe space.

    And “peaceful” though it was, your demonstration was reprehensible and violates all Pagan sensibilities. Deliberately disrupting a High Priestess and her ritual. I am shocked that you dare you disrespect Zsuzsanna so.

  39. Rootrealm

    I attended last year’s and this year’s Pantheacons, but I wasn’t aware of this controversy until I went to the Pagans in Media event and one of the audience members brought it up. I was suprised at the amount of controversy and the intensity of feelings that, from my readings of the ensuing dialogue, apparently arose, and I feel the amount of energy directed towards the events and/or persons involved is disproportionate. We live in a culture heavily influenced by the politics of victimization, in which we can obtain a sense of importance by taking on a role as victim, and I sense such a cultural context has contributed towards an exaggeration of the potential for hurt or sense of hurt within these “trans women/genetic women” comments and events.

    I tend to be sensitive to the issue of “shadow” ( in a Jungian sense, as the aspects of the collective psyche disowned by the group) in group settings. WHat concerns me in this instance, is potential for prohibition by the group ethos, for a person to suggest there may be any distinctions between “trans women” and “women born women” or “genetic women. ” (I don’t know what “cis-women” means…)I may be mistaken, but I as I read the dialogue about this controversy, I feel concern that there is a collective momentum to push such distinctions, and the articulation about them, into shadow. I also feel concerned about Z Budapest being made into a scapegoat for the group.

    I recall several years ago, I went to an event on doing psychotherapy with trans people. One of the speakers, a woman who had a therapy practice with many trans people, was addressing a commment by one MTF trans attendee that she was angry that people didn’t view her as a woman. The therapist speaker said that she didn’t view any trans woman as exactly a woman. No one in the group challenged this comment. She was verbalizing that she experienced some sort of difference, and I am concerned about a collective momentum to censor and forbid such articulations. I like that little boy who alone in the city is the only one able to say that the emperor has no clothes on, and I would not like to see duct tape placed over his mouth.

    I believe it is good for people to be challenged to speak compassionately rather than hurtfully, but it wouldn’t facilitate my growth or open my awareness (or my heart) to find people standing outside my house, or outside my event, in candlelight vigil if they felt I haven’t met the challenge. IF they approached me with a sense of humor and made a joke about me putting my foot in my mouth (again!), I think this would be a far less shaming way of communicating.

    I also am aware that one of the things that makes the “Occult” realm so rich is that it has (theoretically) a more profound comprehension of paradox than the culture at large, which thinks more literally and linearly. I would challenge us to reflect on what might be “paradoxical” in this situation. I sensed Yeshe Rabbit touched on this when she wrote of having seen a side to Z Budapest that she didn’t feel others had seen. What else may be paradoxical in this situation?

    The Trickster in many myths is one who sometimes goes about offending people intentionally. S/he may be viewed in one way as the lava dome that rises up and pops with hot lava when a given group stuffs a lot of collective energy into shadow. Thus s/he plays a necessary collective role, a role really required by the community in order for wholeness to exist. If we cleanse our communities of all potential offense, of all potential hurt, try to eliminate all discrimination, stop up any utterances that could be deemed mean or hateful, and implement universal political correctness and enforced universal compasion, I have a sense the Trickster will be coming ’round.


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