Whenever I think I’m going to give into despair or overwhelm, the Goddess likes to send me a little message. Sometimes it’s a gentle little missive, like a sweet message from a friend on a hard day. Other times, it’s the Nerf 2×4 of Wisdom, like in my Samhain Tarot reading. And sometimes it’s somewhere in between, a stark reminder of why I’m doing this work — this work I was put on earth to do.
That’s what happened today when I logged into my Facebook and found a Priestess group I’m in promoting a trans-exclusionary, transphobic book written by a prominent figure in the Goddess community. Another women posted a direct question — was this group trans-exclusionary or not? — and was met with deafening silence. I waited a bit for one of the mods to answer her, and when no answer was forthcoming, I replied stating my own position — that I am for inclusivity in the Goddess movement (and elsewhere) and that I find the TERF ideology in our community, and the way it goes unquestioned, troubling. (I had a similar experience last week when a press I had heretofore respected promoted that same book, though they did not publish it themselves.) What ensued was a lovely discussion with a woman who had no idea, and was honestly horrified, that such ideologies lurked under the guise of feminism — and was grateful to be connected with myself and others like me, who reject those ideologies of exclusion and hate.
This is why I’m doing the work, to make a world that is liberatory for all, where all can find their sacredness, can find their healing, can find their community.
I’ve written about this elsewhere before, and thought that I’d bring that older post forward into this new space. The text below was originally published at my PaganSquare blog Third Wave Witch on June 9, 2016.
Not My Goddess, Not My Feminism, Not My Priestesses
I’ve started and deleted this blog entry half a dozen times, both in my head and on the screen, over the last several days. It’s hard to know what to say when your heroines fall, when your leaders betray you, when your inspirations prove to be hypocrites of the worst sort. And even if it’s not the first time — and it’s not the first time — it doesn’t get any easier. What do you say when the place that you came to for healing and liberation is exposed as a site of pain and oppression for others, especially for others you care about? How do you stand up and say, “Not in my name”?
Then again, how do you not?
All this has been on my mind and heart since finding out that Ruth Barrett — American Dianic priestess and a woman whose writing has touched me deeply in my journey to the Goddess — in conjunction with others (including known TERF — transexclusive radical feminist — Cathy Brennan) has launched an Indiegogo campaign for a transphobic book about the problem of “female erasure.” (I cannot bring myself to link to the campaign, but going to Indiegogo and searching Barrett’s name brings it up.) While transphobia in some “feminist” Goddess circles is not a new thing — and I use scare quotes around feminist here because I consider any group that espouses transphobia to be inherently nonfeminist — this is a new low. This group of writers, in the name of lifting up women and our voices, has chosen to publish a volume targeting transgender people (particularly trans women), one of the most vulnerable populations in America and around the world. While the book isn’t composed entirely of Goddess centered content, the fact that any tiny piece of this is being done in the name of the Goddess, and of Goddess Spirituality, is sickening. (For a good discussion of exactly what’s going on, see this essay by Peter Dybing over at Patheos.)
Many of those who have spoken up publicly against the book, and against Brennan and Barrett’s transphobia, have found themselves harassed online, reported to Facebook for using “fake names” and had their accounts locked, or — worst of all — doxxed, with their personal information released publicly.
Make no mistake. This is not a matter of disagreement over personal spiritual practice. This is not a a difference of opinion. This is not a question of different views of how the world works and is. This is violence. It is hate speech.
And while the hate speech is not directed at me — I am a cisgender woman, and thus pass the “real woman” test in the eyes of Barrett, Brennan, and their ilk — it is immensely painful to see this happening in my community. I came to Goddess Spirituality, aka “Women’s Spirituality,” in my early 20s after a lifetime of spiritual seeking. The Goddess gatherings and rituals I went to were the first places where I was told that I was whole and sacred, just as I was. That I did not have to overcome my body and my gender in order to be one with Divinity, that I was Divinity, reflected in all Her glorious perfection and imperfection. Goddess Spirituality really exposed me to feminism, taking what was a very nascent understanding of the need to confront inequality and turning it into a full-time passion. I would never have gone on to do my doctorate or my Women’s Studies certificate without first being exposed to the ideas of feminism through my sisters in the Goddess. I would never have become the activist I am now. (Barrett and other TERFs in the Goddess community would probably be horrified to know that it was through their writings that I developed the interest in gender matters that leads me to reject their transexclusionary stance now.)
The Goddess Movement, as it’s sometimes called, made me the woman I am today. It allowed me space to heal from childhood abuse. It sparked deep interests in subjects which continue to shape my life, professionally and personally, today. It allowed to slough off the residue of patriarchal religion and see myself as sacred, to see other people as sacred. It put me on the Priestess Path that I walk, sometimes reluctantly, to this day. And yet now I wonder if it can really be my home anymore. Reading this beautiful and heartbreaking piece by Morag Spinner this morning, I wondered if it’s time for me to leave home, to strike out and help build something new, where all women are welcomed, affirmed, celebrated.
It sometimes seems as though those of us who would reject trans exclusion within Goddess Spirituality are few, but over the last few days I have some to see that we are many more than any of us thought. There are so many of us out here that want to build something better, something beautiful and diverse and healing. I still believe there is much of beauty to be taken from the Goddess Movement of the last 40 or so years. But we cannot build on the shifting sand of discrimination, on the quicksand of exclusion.
I don’t know where we go from here. I only know that we cannot stay where we are. I only know that when any one woman — cis, trans, or otherwise — is told that she is not sacred, that she is not Goddess, then our magick gets a little dimmer, our Goddess gets a little smaller. When we enact upon other women the types of spiritual and real-world violence that so many of us came to Goddess Spirituality to escape, we become agents of the very system we rejected. When leaders of a so-called feminist movement praise the passage of bills like North Carolina’s HB2, as Cathy Brennan did, and endorse discrimination against trans people which literally results in death — calls to Trans LifeLine doubled in the days after the bill’s passage — we are no longer on a liberatory path.
I came to Goddess Spirituality for the liberation. I stayed for the transcendence.
I can find neither if they are denied to my trans sisters.
That’s not my Goddess.
That’s not my Feminism.
And the women that espouse these odious views, who spew forth this vitriol, can not be my Priestesses.