Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Matter of Rights and Religions.

Okay, I'm gonna throw my helm into this ring about Dianic vs Transgender

First of, I don't know Dianic anything. I'm an Asatruar and an Alchemist, and I'm happy to stay in my little sandbox most of the time. Or mead hall, as the case may be. It's what calls to me, and what fits me.

I wasn't there when it happened. Like most of us, I've learned about it second and third hand. Mostly what I've gleaned is that the Dianic path likes to hold their rituals for natural born women, and wouldn't let trans-gender women join in. Trans-women got unhappy about this and felled the ban was prejudiced and discriminatory. What followed has got to be one of the larger blow ups in the Pagan community that I've seen. Even bigger than when you get into the Christianity and Islam battles that occasionally pop up in our Pagan realms.

As it stands, most people seem to be siding on the Dianics are sexist side of the debate. This is probably due to both how it has been portrayed in our Pagan media, as well as the words of Z. who I believe is a Dianic elder. Her words should be easy to find, and are apparently rather sexist/discriminatory. I've read them, or at least part of them, but sense I'm not transgendered and don't know a lot of transgendered people, I'll leave it up to others to decide just how bad her words are.

On the flip side, though, is the fact that very few are coming to the defense of the Dianics. About the only one I've seen on Patheos and The Wild Hunt is Nestis, who I think has done a pretty good job of defending that path. I don't know if everyone agrees though, since again it seems to be hitting a lot on the Dianics are bad from most of the commentators.

I don't know that I really have a place to talk about this issue. To be honest, I probably don't. For me, I'm going to try and take a somewhat neutral stance. This whole debate strikes me at it's core as an issue of rights. Freedom of Religion vs Civil Rights. Do the Dianics have the right to practice their religion as they see fit, regardless of if it's discriminatory, or do the trans-women have the right to join any religious group they please regardless of that group's views on gender and sexuality.

To be honest, I don't know. I've been struggling for years to answer the question of who has the right to dictate for others, unless of course people have voluntarily give that person or group the right to dictate. I know that I don't have the right to dictate what the Dianics teach or practice. I don't think anyone else has that right either. Then again, I don't think I have the right to tell the trans-women they don't have the right to join either. The Dianics might though, since it's their religion. Then again, they might not. But I know I don't have the right to tell them if they can or can't.

I think that before we start jumping up and down and screaming about how terrible the Dianics are for not letting the trans-women join in, we take a step back and consider all sides and the rights of everyone involved. The last thing any of us Pagan and Heathens want is the knowledge that we could be forced to change our beliefs, traditions, and practices, simply because the Majority feel we're being "offensive." We all came to these paths because they didn't dictate what we had to do. Let's keep it that way, and think long and hard before we start down a path that could lead towards such a thing happening.


  1. Every group has its own criteria and definitions. You can't go to a chess group and anticipate that they will play checkers with you. They might, but their whole group is dedicated to checkers.

    Likewise, a group which is dedicated to exploring certain aspects of what it means to be born a woman is not going to include people who haven't been born women. The latter might identify as women, which is fine and wonderful, but since they were not born as women, they don't qualify for the criteria of the group.

    This is simply called "Freedom of Association".

    The freedom of the women-born-women to define the nature of their group in no way prevents male-to-female-women from forming their own groups, and those groups can be either inclusive of all women, women-born-women and male-to-female-women, or, they can be dedicated to exploring the experiences of male-to-female-women alone.

    Freedom of association allows all of this.

    No essential goods are being denied anyone : neither justice, nor material needs. It therefore doesn't seem discriminatory in any substantive sense.

  2. Um... above, should read "their whole group is dedicated to chess".

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  4. The Dianic path is what it is. If the transgendered don't like it they can find their own.

  5. In the early 90s, I first came to Paganism via women-only groups with a Dianic slant. This was a safe supportive environment that I needed at the time. Many of the women were there for that reason. We needed a place for women who had gone through life as women. I would have been extremely uncomfortable pouring out my heart and soul in front of people who were born men, and therefore, my spiritual growth would have been stunted. This is something that I think people like Z understand.

    Not all women-only groups keep trans people out, but I don't think those that do are being sexist. They're filling a still-needed spiritual void for natural-born women. That's not my path now, but I'm glad it has been part of my experience.

  6. The issue isn't that transwomen weren't allowed into a Dianic rite. The issue is that the rite didn't specify who was welcome. Now, one might guess that men weren't welcome to this rite. However, if you're going to do a women born women only rite at a big public event, you should really make that clear in the program. Being told at the door that "no, you're not a real woman" (which is essentially what the policy means) is both hurtful and humiliating.

    Most transwomen are okay with Dianic groups having their own menstrual based rites that are open only to women who menstruate. This wasn't it though. This was a rite to Lilith, a goddess who is quite gender transgressive, and claimed by many cis and transwomen as a third gender deity. It's kinda like doing a rite to Thor, and telling men with beards that they aren't welcome just as they're about to enter... doable, but a bit ludicrous.

    If you're going to do a rite for people without beards, or people born with vaginas, just have the courtesy of making that clear from the get go. That's all.

    Trish, I empathize with your discomfort. However, in in the early 90's, transwomen had nowhere to go. They couldn't go to the men's rites, they weren't welcome at the women's rites, and even mixed groups were uncomfortable with having them play women's roles. I'm glad you found a place where you would feel safe among "natural-born women". It's too bad there was no safe place for transwomen in Wicca or Heathenry.

    Yes, white women still get treated as second class citizens, and that sucks. Ethnic groups, gays and lesbians occupy the next few classes. And somewhere near the bottom, you'll find transsexuals. It would be nice if everyone could get some respect.