Two PSG Women Speak About Inclusiveness in Public Ritual – Interviews

I spoke with Melissa Murry late Friday afternoon at PSG, after her workshop presentation. This was her second year at the Pagan Spirit Gathering [PSG], her first year was a joyful experience.  She was concerned with the advance website ritual listing, though it was unclear then that it was a ‘main’ ritual. She expressed to Selena in advance of PSG that this was serious enough to consider canceling her registration.  Selena helped her schedule a late submission workshop on transgendered history in response.

*Note, from the PSG website:  [ A Dianic Women’s Ritual for Summer Solstice – Ruth Barrett

As a community of women who bleed, will bleed, or have bled our sacred bloods, we celebrate the Summer Solstice in a Dianic ritual that celebrates ourselves and honors the mythic cycle of the Goddess as She transitions from Maiden to fertile Mother/ Amazon/ Creatrix/ Manifester/ Maker. She uses her sacred uterine bloods to manifest tangible and intangible reality. We, in Her image celebrate our ability to heal, transform, and create our lives in this season of Her sacred fire. The ritual will also include a working around female reproductive rights. Think about in advance: As Creatrix in your own life, how do you use your sacred bloods? How do you feed and tend your creative fire? In honor of our sacred bloods and the summer solstice, please wear red as all or a part of your ritual garb. Bring drums and percussion toys if you have them. This ritual is for female born and raised women and girls. Facilitated by Ruth Barrett and women of the PSG community. ]

Melissa Murry at PSG Press Conference
photo: Bob Paxton / Circle Sanctuary

What led you to call Circle Sanctuary?
Melissa: I was concerned with the terminology used in the description of the Women’s Ritual as for women who  bleed, who have bled, or who will bleed. That is the definition that was used, but that does not define all cisgender women.  It is new definition that was created and used after Pantheacon to narrowly define the definition of women while the term “woman” is a broad term used in our culture to define self identified women. This is used to inadvertently define cisgender women, and it can be offensive because that use excludes trans-women who identify as women also.

Is it an unclear definition, what is there about it that causes concern?
The definition of that ritual was excluding women from PSG, but in the description for the ritual it was put forward as created and for all the women of PSG. I felt that there was an invisibility that was going to be created for transgendered women, like myself, who don’t fall within that definition.

So you objected to the limiting and exclusive definition of who the ritual was for, combined with the reference to the inclusive language describing a ‘community of women”.
Yes. I contacted Selena through the PSG website. Several people talked to me and eventually Selena called me, and we had over a four-hour conversation about the matter.  I can speak to what I took away from the conversation, but there was some confusion over the concern.  I understood the Pagan spirit Gathering was an inclusive event, and felt the exclusion of  a group of  women was not in line with the spirit of PSG.  Nor was it in accord with the values I believed Circle Sanctuary to have.

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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.

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