Tuesday, 21 February 2012

PBP: D is for Diversity

(I chose this D-word because I've been reading various blog-responses to the Second Annual Pantheacon Transgender Ritual Exclusion Debate. If you were wondering.)

My thoughts on this subject are all over the map; my brain has an unfortunate tendency to see multiple sides to situations, making it sometimes difficult for me to take a firm and absolute stance. I've never been a huge fan of sex-exclusive rituals, and have in fact been quite strident in my opposition to such exclusion in the past; however, I have, if not exactly mellowed with age, at least had time to develop a perhaps more nuanced view of the subject, and can now see that there can be times when sex-specific rites are appropriate. Should those types of events take place at a public gathering like Pantheacon, where some attendees (who have paid for the privilege of attending) may be denied access to some of the programming because of their physical sex--or would that necessarily lead down a slippery slope to people being denied entry to rituals because of their race, or any other variable?

I don't know. I can't predict with any certainty if one thing must inevitably lead to another. I am, however, all for the right of anyone to determine who or what they want to share sacred space with. If a group is putting on a very specific ritual with very specific requirements, they have the right to expect that those requirements will be honored by those attending, and they have the right to exclude those who cannot or will not meet those requirements. I wouldn't demand entrance to a ritual for women who have given birth, because I am a voluntarily nulliparous woman. I wouldn't demand entrance to a queer male mysteries ritual, because I am not a gay man. I would not attend a Kemetic Orthodox rite if I were not able to meet the physical purity requirement.

I think we need to have it all ways. I think there need to be safe spaces, diverse spaces, inclusive spaces and exclusive spaces. I think there must be mixed groups and separatist groups; in fact, I am quite certain there will be those things, no matter how we may personally feel about any of them. It might be wisest if large public gatherings like Pantheacon do away with exclusionary programming going forward, since it obviously only causes divisiveness and pain for everyone concerned, but in the private sector of the pagan world the need for specific spaces for specific needs is not going to go away. The desire to celebrate/explore/heal/etc. amongst others who share particular experiences is valid and should be honored, even if we don't share or understand the motivation behind it. "Paganism" is such a vast umbrella, and those of us crowding underneath it are so very diverse, that the only way we're going to manage to "coexist" as the bumper stickers say is by making room for a real diversity of expression.

And if that means that there are events from which I am excluded for whatever reason, then so be it. Being exclusive is not necessarily being bigoted or phobic--and if the people doing the excluding are in fact bigoted or phobic, then why the fuck would you want to be a part of their ritual, anyway?

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