Dianic Wicca was the first group I came across when I began to actively seek a Goddess-centric religion to belong to back in my sophomore year of high school. I delved into the religion for a short time, reading the works of Z Budapest, Starhawk, and Mary Daly, but quickly became disillusioned by the angry feminist rhetoric present in many of the writings as well as the inherent transphobia.
I believe it is safe to say that Dianic Wicca is the most well-known Goddess-centric religious movement. Keeping this in mind, I can understand why many people feel that Goddess-centric religions are sexist and cisgenderist by nature. In today’s post, I want to clarify my thoughts on single gender and mixed gender religious groups, as well as my personal position on transgender participation in single gender groups.
I personally don’t see anything inherently wrong with single gender groups, be they Filianic or Dianic. In Filianism, single gender, all-female groups like the ELFS and Cheoluranyan Filianism are the norm rather than the exception. Granted, there seems to be a single gender, all-male Filianic organization called the Agora League Brotherhood, but I don’t believe that group is very active. The Kyrian Path is a new Filianic branch that will allow both men and women to participate, which will be the only current mixed gender Filianic group that I am aware of. As far as I am aware, single gender, all-female Filianic groups do not exclude transwomen.
Single gender groups have existed throughout the centuries in the form of groups like the all-male Mithraism or the all-female Bona Dea festival. I believe that single gender groups can be helpful in many respects, and in other cases mixed gender groups are more appropriate. Of course religious groups have the right to allow or exclude into their organization whomever they wish. As one Dianic Wiccan who goes by the screen name of Sierra Carleysdaughter on the Pagan forum Pagan Space:
As a Dianic Witch within the Budapest Tradition (of which there are at least two and more are being developed) I support the division of certain rituals for bio-women (hence Women’s blood mysteries), and individuals who identify as women. Bio women have life long experiences as females in a female body that only females can have. Transgendered people have their own unique experiences and no doubt, mysteries. Everyone should be valued for who they are and should follow a path that reflects their experiences. I was at Pantheacon last year where our ONE woman-only ritual was protested by both conference attendees AND P-con staff. That has never happened before in the history of P-con. As a participant in that ritual I can tell you it felt highly threatening and was an attempt to intimidate, regardless of what the instigators stated. I am sad that as a woman, I am attacked for just trying to celebrate my own blood mysteries with others who share the same experience. And I have to wonder whether the fact that we are women makes it easier to deny us our own space. I doubt that anyone would suggest that a gathering of any other oppressed group be forced to open their sacred rituals to outsiders. Not only does this make it impossible for us to experience our ritual, it is unfulfilling for anyone who does not share the experience of blood mysteries as a woman. I’m certainly not trying to be hateful. I have no hatred toward transgender individuals, but some have put so much energy into trying to vilify Dianics, that little energy has been put into developing traditions and experiences that would truely [sic] reflect their experiences.
I have never understood the obsession with blood mysteries and the like amongst some Neo Pagan women, but besides that I understand the point she is getting at, though I don’t necessarily agree with it. The following response on the forum made by a user named fawn is a compelling argument for allowing transwomen to participate in all-female rituals and groups rather than having them develop their own transwoman tradition:
With all that said I love women only space, and I fully support women’s right to women only space. Being inclusive of Transwomen isn’t an attempt to destroy women only space, but is way to open women only space to all types of women, to support all women. Heaven knows they need all the support they can get. Transwomen are some of the most oppressed people in our society, yes even more so than middle class white ciswomen (snark). They are also a very small minority, if they can’t turn to other women, than who can they turn to? We also should remember that Paganism very small minority religion, we only make up 0.04% of the US population. So unless a Transwoman lives in NYC or LA it’s not unlikely she might be the only Transwoman in her pagan community. In this case the idea of Transwomen getting together with other Transwomen to celebrate their own mysteries it an unrealistic idea.
At the same time, however, I believe that transphobic rhetoric and hate speech is unbecoming of a religious leader. In this case, Z Budapest has made numerous hateful statements in the past against transgenders, especially MTF transgenders. Following an incident in 2011 when a group of transgendered women were excluded from a women-only ritual at a Neo-Pagan conference, Z Budapest came out and claimed that transwomen are actually men who are trying to deny “real women” the right to have their own spirituality. She also frequently refers to transgender people by derogatory names like “trannies”, like this post made on her Facebook page:
Just recently the trannies(if they can call me names i can call them names) has disrupted and shut down a very important feminist gathering in London. They are a very well supported male organization in skirts and make up. The other 1 percent. (actually they are more 0.03 percent of the population)but with money and male egos driving it, they are very affective. They have hijacked our words (feminism) they “invaded” our institutions by force of lawyers, (who paid them?)but they look all innocent here, as individuals. Just a bunch of words, and plenty of blahbalhbalh.
Her use of hateful rhetoric and language leads me to the conclusion that she is not a Divinely inspired priestess or religious leader, in my honest opinion. Dea does not work through humanity’s prejudice and hate.
What is your view on the issue on transgender participation in single gender religious groups?