Recently, there has been much sturm und drang in the Pagan blogosphere over the clearly-just-not-getting-it comments about trans women by recognizable Names in the community who have been involved at a high-profile level since the 1970s or even earlier.
I feel a need to say something about this.
First–as seems unfortunately necessary in a situation like this–I will declare my allegiances: I am for the inclusion and acceptance of trans people. I think theirs is about as hard a road to walk as can possibly be imagined, and I support easing it at every possible turn.
AND I understand that as a man I don’t have any idea about women’s spaces, AND I recognize that there is a lot of real woundedness out there that can be easy to trigger, AND I get that being a victim doesn’t conduct the right to control the world around you, nor to victimize others, AND that this is probably a Gordian knot without solution, AND, finally, that though my heart beats for justice and equality, this really isn’t any of my goddamned business. All I can be is an ally, to whomever.
But frankly, that is beside the point.
Much of the conversation about the trans-resistant (even trans-hostile) statements of some of said Pagan Names focuses not on their words or their analysis, but on the fact that they are, indeed, Pagan Names.
Bee-Enn-Pees. Big Name Pagans.
And as such, they have been characterized as Elders and–at least in the eyes of some–as worthy of indulgence sheerly because of their longevity in the movement which has become modern Paganism.
And this, I cannot countenance.
I think this is a poisonous principle. It is the principle of patriarchs and dynasties.
I’ve spent a goodly amount of time around some BNPs. Decades. And I can tell you: having stuck around long enough to get your name in books does not in any way imply you are not as fucked up as can possibly be imagined.
I will respect a position, if it is well sourced and argued. But I will not give a pass to someone simply because s/he is Prominent. However much I may appreciate the role they may have played in creating the modern Pagan movement, I don’t give “Elder Passes” to people who are, still, just people, and just as apt to be wrong, stuck in the past, and subject to all the other foibles of age as am I, or anyone else.
They’re not my Elders. They’re my peers. And as such, they are as subject to vigorous debate of their views as is any other person, much as I may appreciate what they have done for our community.
For the record, I agree with pretty much all that DuPree writes, except for this.
If we truly do not believe in power-over, we must believe in the essential equality even of those older and more experienced than we. We can learn from them, but they can learn from us, too.
We are equals. We do not live in a hierarchy based on experience, visibility, or achievement.
In Atheopaganism, we have no priests or priestesses. “To priest/ess” is a verb. It is a thing someone does–for a ritual, for a consultation or counseling. All are welcome to it, though it is a skill set, and some are far more adept at it than others.
This is deliberate, radical equality. None shall call themselves “high priest” in my tradition. And none shall be immune from the kind of interrogation, critique, and lively bandying of ideas that keep everyone honest, thoughtful, and grounded.
I have seen the alternative, and it isn’t pretty: stratospheric woo, dysfunctional behavior excused by supernatural explanations, and assertion of authority based on years and titles…sometimes to the degree of actual abuse.
I have no Elders in the Pagan community. I have those I honor for their service. But I don’t expect the twenty-somethings not to argue with me out of some kind of deference, and in turn I will not decline to critique what I see as wrong on the part of the seventy-somethings.
“Elders” is a concept for Abrahamic patriarchies, and for tribal hierarchies. We don’t need it. Let’s respect, honor, cherish–and challenge–everyone.