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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

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