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  • Building bridges between Dianic and Trans communities at PSG

    Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG) played host to a press conference on Saturday to detail the progress made in discussions surrounding issues of gender rituals, women’s mystery traditions, and the transgender community.  As happened at other recent Pagan events, controversy was sparked by a women’s ritual limited to women who will, have, or had experienced menstruation, thereby excluding transgendered women.  Discussions involving Rev. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, Dianic High Priestess and women’s Solstice ritual leader Ruth Barrett, and festival presenter and transgendered activist Melissa Murry took place before and during Pagan Spirit Gathering.  While the three women said they do not speak for all in their community they took part in what they termed respectful dialogue to search for solutions for next year’s PSG.

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    On Wednesday night at PSG, a Dianic ritual for “women who bleed, will bleed, or have bled our sacred bloods” was held at the same time as the men’s Solstice ritual, which was open to all who self-identified as male.   These events are generally considered the main gender based rituals at PSG.  A second women’s ritual, held on Friday night, was open to any who self-identify as female.  At the Saturday press conference Rev. Fox said PSG is experimenting with ways that allow diverse groups to hold rituals with exclusionary criteria while still ensuring other rituals are more universal in nature.  She went on to say PSG added a workshop and ritual on Transgendered Paganism, presented by Melissa Murry, and a workshop on the Dianic Tradition, presented by Ruth Barrett, to help foster productive conversation about these hot button topics.

    Ms. Murry said she contacted Circle Sanctuary, producers of PSG, before the festival began to voice her disappointment at being excluded in the Solstice women’s ritual, “When I attended last year at the women’s ritual it was an amazing experience that was transformational.  I also met a young transgender woman at Rainbow Camp who helped me find my voice and take a label that I had not been open about and share with many people, that label being a transgendered woman, and embracing that label here at PSG in the safety of the community.”  Ms. Murry went on to say that after finding out about the Dianic Solstice ritual she felt PSG was no longer a place of comfort, acceptance, and safety.

    Ms Barrett clarified that the ritual, and the Dianic tradition, are not discriminatory based on gender, which can be fluid, but on embodied experience, specifically the blood mysteries.

    Rev. Fox says she spent hours in conversation with Murry, Barrett, and others in response to this issue and all were committed to finding a both/and solution along with not stirring up the firestorm of harsh comments and community division experienced at other Pagan events.  While she says she regrets any hurt caused, she says having this particular ‘womb politics’ ritual at PSG this year was an important magical working.

    This was not the only emotional time during the press conference.  Barrett was clearly overwhelmed when Ms. Murry asked the transgender community to respect women’s mysteries, after firmly asking PSG to change their policy for main rituals to be more inclusive.  Ms Barrett, in turn, pledged to “protect you with my life for your mysteries that are specifically about your experience.”

    Both women said the transgender community is trying to find their voice, similar to the feminist movement in the 60′s and 70′s.   Like the feminist movement, they speak of suffering, pain, and violence.  Murry and Barrett also spoke of the value in claiming mysteries and rituals specific to their sacred journey as women.  “Within my Tradition, which is about the female body and the journey of being born female and the journey through the bloods and birth and menopause,” said Barrett.  “That is a different journey for transgendered women who come to womanhood through a different path.”

    Rev. Fox announced that at next year’s PSG they would offer a mystery ritual and rites of passage for transgendered persons if Ms. Murry would lead them.  After Murry agreed to do so, she asked Barrett if she would assist her.  Barrett was unsure if she would be able to attend PSG next year due to changes in her personal life, but said she would help Murry however she was able.

    As for an official policy for rituals at PSG, that is still undecided.  The preliminary suggestion put forth by Fox, Murry and Bennett at the conference was to have main rituals be more inclusive, while still holding sacred space for exclusionary rituals and workshops.  How this would work in practice is Wednesday night would still feature a men’s ritual and a women’s ritual, but both would be open to anyone who self-identifies as that gender.  Rev. Fox says Circle Sanctuary does not make top down decisions so she is soliciting input on the proposal from the community.  As of publication time, there is no official procedure or transparency policy in place for this decision making process. As one becomes available, PNC will update.

    Barrett said she that while the three of them don’t presume to speak for others, she hopes, “This kind of conversation that Melissa and I have had will be one of many that will continue into the future between the female focused or female centered traditions such as my tradition, the Dianic tradition, and the transgender community that will be respectful conversation and conversation about where can we meet and where can we not.  I think through so much talking with Melissa I feel we have found that place and I know that we would like to share what we feel would be some solutions for PSG.”

    Please listen to the full audio recording of the press conference here.

    Melissa’s statement at the Thursday morning meeting can be found here.

    Send feedback to Circle Sanctuary vie email:  circle@circlesanctuary.org

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    Ruth Barrett:  is a Dianic high priestess, ritualist, educator, author, and award winning recording artist of original Goddess songs. Ruth’s numerous recordings, beginning in 1980 with musical partner Cyntia Smith, have been among the pioneering musical works in the Goddess Spirituality Movement.

    Ruth began her formal Goddess studies with founding Goddess Movement muse Shekhinah Mountainwater in 1975. Since inheriting Z Budapest’s Los Angeles ministry in 1980, Ruth has taught magical and ritual arts in the Dianic tradition at festivals and conferences across the United States, in Canada, and Great Britain.

    Ruth served the Los Angeles women’s community as co-founder and as the religious director of Circle of Aradia (CoA) for two decades, creating and teaching a Dianic curriculum of classes and providing open seasonal rituals with women of her community. In 1997 Ruth was honored as recipient of the L.A.C.E. award for outstanding contributions in the area of Spirituality from the Gay and Lesbian Center in Los Angeles.

    In 2000, Ruth relocated to the Midwest where she founded Temple of Diana with life partner, Falcon River. Ruth is author of Women’s Rites, Women’s Mysteries: Intuitive Ritual Creation (Llewellyn, 2004).

    Ruth contributed a chapter on The Power of Ritual which was published in Daughters of the Goddess (ed. Wendy Griffin, Alta Mira Pub, 2000), and a chapter titled Lesbian Rituals and Dianic Tradition in Lesbian Rites: Symbolic Acts and the Power of Community (ed. Ramona Faith Oswald, Harrington Park Press, an imprint of The Haworth Press, Inc. 2003). Excerpts from Ruth’s book, Women’s Rites, Women’s Mysteries will be included in Creating Circles & Ceremonies: Rituals for All Seasons and Reasons by Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart (New Page, summer 2006). Ruth is a featured writer for the holy days sections in the We’Moon 2007 date book.

    Selena Fox: is senior minister and high priestess of Circle Sanctuary, a Wiccan church, Pagan resource center, and Nature preserve with a worldwide Ecospirituality ministry that includes networking, publishing, education, environmental preservation, counseling, events sponsoring, and other work.

    For more than thirty years, Rev. Fox has served as one of the elders, religious freedom activists, and public media spokespersons for the Wiccan religion and related forms of contemporary Paganism and Nature religion, nationwide and internationally.

    In addition to her work as a minister, Rev. Selena Fox is a certified clinical psychotherapist. She graduated cum laude with a BS in Psychology from the College of William and Mary in Virginia, and received a MS in Counseling Psychology from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She has worked as a staff psychotherapist at Wellspring Clinic and at Parkway Hospital in Madison. Her professional affiliations over the years have included the American Psychological Association, American Counseling Association, American Academy of Religion, and other organizations.

    She is the founding editor of CIRCLE Magazine and the Circle Guide to Pagan Groups. She is author of the Goddess Communion handbook and the research study: When Goddess is God. Her audio recordings include Sacred Cave Ritual and Magical Journeys.

    Representing the Wiccan religion and contemporary Paganism, Rev. Selena Fox has been a speaker and delegate at a variety of international interreligious conferences, including the World Council of Churches Women’s International Interfaith Dialogue Conference (1988, Toronto, Ontario, Canada); International Environmental Ethics Conference (1990, Iowa); Human Unity Conference (Chicago, 1980); Nature Religion Today (1996, Ambleside, England); Interfaith Women’s Healing Conference (1992, Newfoundland, Canada); Re-enchantment (1997, Winchester, England); and Parliament of the World’s Religions (1993, Chicago; 1999, Cape Town, South Africa; 2004, Barcelona, Spain). Rev. Fox is a member of the 250 member Assembly of Religious and Spiritual Leaders associated with the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

    For many years, Rev. Fox has served as a consultant on Wiccan religious accommodation issues to chaplains in the US military, corrections, colleges and universities, hospices, mental health clinics, and hospitals. She is among the religious leaders appointed to and presently serving on the Religious Practices Advisory Committee to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. She also has served as an adviser on Wiccan, Pagan, and Nature religions religious accommodation issues to the Pentagon and US Department of Justice.

    Melissa Murry:  is a 34 year old trans woman living in Houston, Texas.  Ms. Murry has been active in GLBTQ, Pagan, and feminist activism since she transitioned at age 15. Her service to the community include the Indianapolis Youth Group in Indianapolis, In.  In Houston, Ms. Murry is involved in Pagan Prison Ministry, the Huston Transgendered Unity Committee (HTUC), a former president of the community Advisory Board for Huston Area Community Services Transgendered Services Program, and participates in organizing the HTUC Annual Unity Banquet.  This event raises money for the Peggy Rudd Transgendered Scholarship.

    Melissa is working on a BA in History with a focus in Minority History at the University of Houston – Downtown.  She is in training for ordination in the Black Forest Tradition’s Clan Raven of the Black Rose.  This tradition is oath bound and blends Shamanic, Celtic, and Germanic mysteries.  Melissa is working on Transgendered Mysteries and integrating  these Mysteries in the larger Pagan community.

    Full transcript of the Press conference, by Nicole Youngman,  here.

    29 Responses

    1. Since you have a Dianic ritual for women that bleed or have bled and a male ritual for males only why not have a transgendered ritual just for transgendered people.

      • The Men’s ritual was open to all who self identified as male. While, I will never argue with more ritual, it is my hope that full integration is possible

      • How about having the official rituals be open to anyone who identifies as the gender the official rituals are for?

    2. I suggest since you have a Dianic ritual for those women that bleed or have bled and an all male ritual solely for men why not just have an all transgendered ritual for transgendered people?

    3. While I do appreciate this post and applaud the efforts of all to build bridges and promote healing on this subject, I would like to bring up another issue…

      These videos are not captioned for deaf and hard of hearing individuals.

      I know of at least one Deaf transgendered individual who is Pagan-friendly that I would love to refer this to, but I cannot if the videos are not accessible.

      Yes, I know that they have been “captioned” via YouTube’s automatic captioning program. However, please take the time to turn on the captions and watch yourself. You will see that it is far from perfect… an issue that has been a big complaint in the Deaf Community. YouTube’s captioning program works on the premise of voice recognition software – it “listens” to the soundtrack and then attempts to caption what it “hears.” The result is that you end up with a lot of errors.

      What I and my fellow Deafies would like to see is someone actually listen to the soundtrack and type up a script of what is said. This can then be downloaded to YouTube, which will then utilize such a script to insert the accurate words into the video, using the soundtrack to properly do so in the right place at the right time.

      Again, I do applaud PSG for the efforts made at this gathering. However, let us not forget that there are other groups of Pagans who also need to be included, and who have been wounded by the actions of the Pagan Community as well.

      We need to make an effort to reach out to these individuals as well.

      Thank you.

      Ocean
      Deaf Pagan Crossroads

      • Please give us some time. A transcript of the highlights of the press conference is in the works, but it does take a bit to do when it is one hour in length. And PNCers are working hard to post other articles while working full and part-time jobs. (Example – to do this article it took me from 10am to to 3:30pm. Some of that time was due to Adobe Premier and Youtube being finicky)

        If anyone would like to assist in writing up a transcript, we would greatly appreciate the help and it would help get it posted that much sooner.

        • While I appreciate the fact that it takes time and effort to caption videos, I am a little confused by your response. The two videos that were posted above encompass a total of less than three minutes in length – one is under two minutes, the other is under one minute. How much trouble would it have been…at the very least…to have printed a transcript of these videos under them?

          As an example, see my recent post at Deaf Pagan Crossroads where I have included a transcript of a non-captioned video underneath: http://deafpagancrossroads.com/2012/06/22/an-asl-video-about-paganism/

          I am a firm believer in Equal Communication Access…for everyone – deaf and hearing alike. Every single video that gets posted at Deaf Pagan Crossroads is either captioned or has a transcript included. Every single one. Otherwise it doesn’t get posted, no matter how good of a video it might be, or how powerful the message it contains. I must practice what I preach.

          This isn’t just my message, it is the message of the Deaf Community, as demonstrated by the recent #captionTHIS movement, which I also blogged about at my site: http://deafpagancrossroads.com/2012/06/05/join-me-in-the-captionthis-movement/

          I am not trying to be difficult or demanding here, or to take away from the importance of the original subject of which this post is concerned. I do appreciate the efforts that are being made here, and I am happy to see that a transcript is in the works. But let’s not divert from the whole point of my original comment – that the two short videos that are included in this post are not captioned, nor was a transcript included.

          It would have been a nice gesture if such an effort would have been made.

          Thank you.

          • I appreciate reader feedback and understand what you are saying, but I’m at my limit right now for time. No, I am past my limit and I have to remove the time I had scheduled to transcribe the majority of the press conference for a few weeks. So if someone would like to step up to the plate and help out, that would be excellent, because we need it. When we did an interview with a Presidential candidate, a volunteer stepped forward to transcribe and that was helpful. Send the transcript to schulzcaral@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to post it.

            We are volunteers. And we are always looking for more volunteers. If you find PNC lacking in some way, join up and be the change you wish to see.

            • We have a volunteer working on the full transcription and another is sending me a transcription of the quotes, which I’m adding to youtube. Thank you to the people willing to step forward and make this happen.

              • I’m glad to see that you’ve gotten some volunteers…if you need more, please let me know and I will see if the hearing members of my Pagan study group would be willing to help out as well (I would, but I doubt I would do you much good…LOL!)

                If you need some help with figuring out how to add the transcript to YouTube so the captions will appear, let me know and I will see if I or one of my Deaf tech experts can walk you thru the process (I admit that my computer skills leave something to be desired…although I ***think*** I know how to do this!)

                There are also some captioning programs out there that are supposed to be pretty good, and they are free. Two of them I have been told about include Overstream.net and VideoCritter. They are supposed to be user-friendly.

                For more info about captioning, here’s yet another post from my blog that might prove helpful:

                http://deafpagancrossroads.com/2011/05/29/another-video-captioning-option/

                I am also going to write up a post at Deaf Pagan Crossroads about the need for transcription volunteers and put out the call to the Pagan Community to see if that helps to bring attention to this need and creates more individuals willing to help out with providing such services.

                Thank you.

                ~ Ocean
                Deaf Pagan Crossroads

                • I would love if someone could talk me through how to load a better caption program and welcome more volunteers for transcription. We haven’t done much video, but that will be changing in the future.

    4. It occurs to me that there are any number of transgendered women who have bled – as a result of violence against them for being who they are.

    5. I hesitate to offer a ‘simple’ solution to a very complex issue, but as a start why not schedule the Solstice rituals that include those who ‘self identify as male’ and those who ‘self identify as female’ at the same time, and the Dianic which is specific for ‘blood/womb mysteries’ and ‘embodied experiences’ in their own spot at a different time? This is a very small change, but along with all of the other efforts to honor the transgendered community being discussed it could help. I am very proud of the Pagan community for addressing this very emotional issue!

    6. [...] echoed incidents at PantheaCon in the past two years. Yesterday, newly returned from the festival, Cara Schulz from PNC-Minnesota reports on what may be a historic press conference held on Saturday, featuring Rev. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary, Dianic High Priestess Ruth Barrett, and festival [...]

    7. [...] news from Pagan Spirit Gathering, it seems that under Selena Fox’s good influence, Dianics, while still excluding transgender women from their rites, are at least talking to them resp… This represents a major step forward, as Ruth Barrett’s contribution to the anthology Gender [...]

    8. This is a very complex and emotionally sensitive issue and there isn’t a simple solution. To state the model of men’s, women’s and transgendered only rituals still skirts the edge of exclusion, not to mention there are those who’ve transitioned who have never considered themselves the sex of the body they were born with nor do they claim the transgender identity. Those people in essence are women and men, no matter their biology. Another aspect is those who claim gender fluidity or no gender. Identity and inclusion are just a couple of issues in this larger issue of how do we as a community at festivals/events support the wide variety of traditions, and people in a gentle, loving, inclusive, respectful way.

      I feel we are on the right path toward solving that issue. We are having conversations and dialogue. Communication and education is key. I do think in this situation communication could’ve been better. Like at first when I read “ritual for those who will bleed, have bled, etc, I would’ve considered that transgendered women could be included in that because those who’ve gone through the surgery have bled and those who face the threat of violence every day may bleed.

      Also, I hear and feel for Selena’s concern that a womb focused ritual would’ve made transgendered women feel second class. I’m making a big assumption that she didn’t ask or start the dialogue, but maybe she did and came to the same conclusion. It is my personal opinion that regarding the political climate toward woman and reproductive rights, that all self-identified women should’ve had the opportunity to participate in a ritual that was focusing on the current political climate. The reason I feel this way is because transgender women’s rights are just as vital if not the same as issues regarding vagina’s, birthcontrol, and women’s health. Transgender women need to have a doctor’s permission for everything from hormone therapy to permission for reassignment surgery. The doctor, insurance companies and even the government can/could/do have their hands in this very vital and in some cases life/death situation of a person’s medical health and psychological well being. Transgender issues/rights are women’s issues/rights and women’s issues/rights are all our issues/rights. There is no separation, in my mind, between my having a womb and my sister needing her hormones and surgeries. We do need to be guardians for eachother. Thing is I would state that in my opinion the current climate is also a men’s issue and that their inclusion would give even more power to create change, protection and guardianship of eachother but I also know there is a time and place for women or at least respect that idea. I have participated in crone rituals where men had a part outside of the main women’s circle and have always enjoyed and preferred that balance of coming back together to celebrate passages and how we compliment each other. All that said, I feel we are heading in a good direction by talking and looking carefully at every angle we can.

      As for festivals and events, first keep the dialogue open, but there has got to be a bit more. I am part of an organization that is putting on it’s second festival. When PNC (thank you) reported on Pantheacon and the issues that arose there, and since we are so new and forming policies and procedures, I and another board member felt this is something we need to address before it even becomes an potential issue. Fortunately, we also had several people of the GLBT community to add input. Our solution is when holding Men’s and Women’s mystery rituals and any other rituals which are a community/featured ritual/event, participation includes anyone and is based on self-identification. Those who wish to be more specific as to who participates in rituals or have specific traditions can hold private rituals on the land. Point is those who hold any kind of event, need to start considering GLBT issues along side traditions and potential changes to those traditions because there is a responsiblity and accounting that we have toward eachother, the greater community and the world. Just as nature evolves and changes, so do we have to consider our evolution and potential change.

    9. Women´s blood rituals don´t involve violent or surgical bleeding … I think that assumption is only ironic and has nothing to do with females blood mysteries. On the other hand, this conversations to build bridges between dianic and transgender pagans are really important and necessary. There is a place for all those rituals: women only, men only, transgender only… and then there could be a big inclusive ritual with all of them together.

    10. Women´s blood rituals don´t involve violent or surgical bleeding … I think that assumption is only ironic and has nothing to do with females blood mysteries. On the other hand, this conversations to build bridges between dianic and transgender pagans are really important and necessary. There is a place for all those rituals: women only, men only, transgender only… and then there could be a big inclusive ritual with all of them together.

    11. Good news, and may it only be a harbinger of more goods news! Also of note, I have been working with two Transgender Priestesses on designing several different Rites specific to the transgender experience. They are the authors and I have given an editorial eye as an experienced organizer of large-scale public ritual to help ensure that their offerings will effectively translate for groups of various sizes and types. I am thrilled to be able to help on the practical side of things as these brilliant women bring forth their unique and artful voices. Some of our work can be seen in the new Modern Witch magazine. The author published there is Claire Medeiros. Melissa, I’d love to facilitate an introduction between you and these sisters, as they have begun an exciting body of work and would surely be glad to have another sister lend her voice to it as well. Here is a link to the mag, and please feel free to contact me. I’m yesherabbit at gmail.

      http://modernwitchonline.com/magazine/

      • as a transsexual woman and a Pagan in rural Minnesota I would also be interested in having a meeting facilitated between myself and other women who have shared my life experiences and who want to put together rituals etc for transgender women. xx

    12. Cara ~

      As I promised, I have put up a post at Deaf Pagan Crossroads that appeals to the Pagan Community to help out with transcribing videos for captioning or at least a transcript. It also contains info on how to create a good transcript and upload it to the YouTube program.

      Here’s the link for it for you and your readers. I would appreciate any help you can provide in getting the word out to others…

      http://deafpagancrossroads.com/2012/06/27/dear-pagan-community-please-help-transcribe-videos/

      Many thanks.

      ~ Ocean
      Deaf Pagan Crossroads

    13. Why did Selena Fox accept a ritual structure that left trans women nowhere to go during one of the major rituals of the gathering? That was a powerful message of destruction and negation that she sent. I’ve read this and tried to take any kind of light or comfort away and none seems to be present.

    14. [...] the PNC did a fine job of covering PSG and Melissa Murry’s story. You can read the coverage here and here and here and here and here. I recommend you read through all of it. Having several PNC [...]

    15. The issue that I can see with this is that not everyone that falls under the transgender umbrella should be segregated from a women only ritual, the article raises for me the question of intersex females like myself. I have discussed this in a group before but am willing to do so again. I myself was born intersex, meaning that I was born with both male and female genitals and secondary characteristics, I had surgery when I was a child that has now since been corrected and I now live my life as a normal female, however there are certain genetic differences between myself and a cisgender female. Should I be told I cannot be a part of such rituals? I bleed but I would hardly call my menstruation normal due to the anatomical differences between myself and a female that was not born with my complications. What I am getting at is that being intersex means that I fall under the transgender umbrella, the gender binary is not so clear cut as one might imagine. If some transgender people and not others are to be allowed to participate the question arises of how such allowances are to be policed and the larger question of if should they be policed at all? Does this mean that there are percentages of womanhood? even outside of the transgender question, women who were born without functioning wombs, who may have no possible way of having a menstrual cycle and who are unable to give birth and experience the inherent pains and so called mysteries of what is considered “normal’ womanhood are still very much female, should these women be segregated from a Dianic Ritual such as this? is a woman a person who can prove they have an (F) on their drivers license? you see what we need in order to make things fair is to agree on the criteria of what a woman is and it seems that there is much disagreement about what exactly that is and what it means to be female. One point to remember is that there is almost as much natural diversity in each of our gender groups as there are between the different races of people. In this text I am trying to illuminate some of the points that should possibly be taken into consideration when discussing what seems to be a very hot topic at the moment.

    16. [...] usually finished transcribing a Pagan Spirit Gathering press conference from final month per Dianic rituals and a inclusion of transgendered people, and it’s gotten my [...]

    17. [...] 30, 2012 By Nicole Youngman 11 CommentsI’ve just finished transcribing the Pagan Spirit Gathering press conference from last month regarding Dianic rituals and the inclusion of transgendered people, and it’s [...]

    18. [...] leader Selena Fox and the PSG staff’s commitment to working out a solution. Having read the later post about the meeting held with Selena, Melissa, Ruth Barrett and others, it sounds like the [...]

    19. [...]  Building bridges between Dianic and Trans communities at PSG  Pagan Spirit Gathering (PSG) played host to a press conference on Saturday to detail the [...]

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