Webs of Woven Words, Threads, Stitches and Enchantments

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Women Born Women vs Transgender Women?

Morgan le Fay by Frederick Sandys

Put on your raincoats, the shit will now hit the fan!

Pagans, although they preach otherwise, are just like everyone else. They have their prejudices the same as any other religious group. They speak of other groups with disrespect and a holier than thou attitude - not everyone, but enough to make a big deal out of small potatoes.

The latest issue - and believe me, it is nothing new despite what some Pagans may think, is the bashing of Dianic Feminist Witches who exclude transgender people from their women's groups. Not all Dianics have the stipulation of women-born women only in their groups, but quite a few do. Most, if not all, co-ed Pagan groups welcome transgender people with open arms so it isn't an issue of there are no groups for transgender people. And, let me state for the record, I do not know any Dianic Feminist witches who hate transgender people.

Transgender folks have suffered a great deal, personally and as a group. The pain and anguish that they experience is something I cannot imagine. However, as a woman, I have experienced my own pain at the hands of men, specifically date rape by an individual I had complete trust in, disrespect, harassment, discrimination, in addition to the usual growing pains of being female. A transgender woman who grew up male has not experienced those feelings - other feelings just as painful, but NOT the experience of being and growing up female in a patriarchal society. Many women, not all of course, who choose women born women's groups have suffered rape, incest and other abuse. They find solace and a safe place within a Dianic group. Sometimes, women just want to share their female experiences and the mysteries of the Goddesses they are dedicated to without men around, very simple, just like any other women's gathering where they want to be with "just the girls.". 

The fact that I support women-born women spiritual groups places me with those women who are now being called, among many horrid and disrespectful names, bigot. These are the same individuals who consider themselves to be openminded, compassionate and tolerant of all - and these people are not just males, but females too and the majority not even transgender. To me, this shows that they have the same mentality as many other religious organizations - my way is the only way, if you don't follow my beliefs than you are ________ fill in the blank. The vicious comments and name calling is shameful, but it is the Dianic women who are being treated horribly, not the transgender people - I guess that's OK though. Hey folks - read your comments. REALLY? That's how you feel because some women want to practice as they see fit? Who made you the law? Do we now have witch police? 

In the groups I practice with, if we choose to have women-born women only, that's our business. You don't like it? Find another group - there are plenty. Many people turned to Paganism because they didn't want some so called authority to tell them how to practice their spiritual path. So Dianic bashers and name callers, what are you doing? What are you thinking? And what, with the comments you are spewing, makes you think you are any more tolerant?

If you don't like the way I practice my spiritual path or the many women who choose a similar path, keep this in mind - you don't have to, it's not your business, we don't need your permission for anything, so  tend to your own garden. We are not telling you how to practice. This doesn't just apply to women's groups, but all Pagan groups. If you are one  of the many haters of Dianics out there, making fun of us, name calling and attacking those women who choose women born women only groups, go stand in front of a mirror and look at your OWN ugliness and bigotry. If you don't want someone telling you how to conduct your own spiritual practice, then perhaps you should stop doing just that to others. We don't have to all agree, but we do have to respect the right of each person to practice the craft as one chooses.

I saw some, although very little, support out their for us, from some who surprised me and I was delighted. I also have received some, let's call it what it is, hate mail - I guess that too is OK for these openminded bashers. A few months back, one of the women who read my blog applied to join my Yahoo group. One of the questions we ask on our application is "Are you a woman-born woman?" The woman applying has a best friend who is a transgender woman and resented the question. She called me a bigot and implied I was a hateful person. She and her friend would no longer read my blog. I responded politely that I was not a bigot, just making a safe place for women and she was free to read or not read whatever she chose. And, if some reading this decide they will no longer read what I write because of my support for women born women groups, well, that's your choice. I am not sorry for my beliefs or practices and really, I don't owe anyone an explanation, but I chose to write about it here, freely. There are male mysteries groups, no one is attacking them. There are many groups with specific membership guidelines and do not allow everyone who applies to join, no one is attacking them. But Dianics have dealt with this for a long time, if not the woman born woman issue, then just the fact that we practice a goddess only path. Do we care? No, we do what women have always done… we keep at it, we fight for our rights; out loud or under ground, we just keep doing what we do.

The bashers/haters need to look at themselves, as I said above. Dianics are not going anywhere, nor are others going to change the way we practice our spirituality. If you don't like what we do, you are free to go your own way and we are the first ones to say, yeah, do it!

Blessings nine! 


  1. I admit that most Dianic groups tend to rub me the wrong way, for a variety of reasons. But so long as they aren't telling me how to worship, then they're welcome to their own ways. After all, if I want the right to practice as *I* do, then I must support their right to do the same. I don't see setting up a gender-specific group as being bigoted, anymore than having a female-only or male-only ritual is.

    The only problem I'd see in that is if it were a *public* ritual, where it was open to everyone, and those running it started harassing or pushing out transgendered (or *anyone* for that matter) just for being transgendered. If you're in private, that's your business. If you're in public, it's been made my business and it had best be fair. The reason I say the above is because I've personally witnessed the witless people who took over public ritual space at large festivals and tried to kick out everyone with male genitalia. Hello... the festival rules state all rituals held in that spot are PUBLIC. No mention of plumbing whatsoever. *sigh*

    All of that said... I'll be honest, most of the transgendered women I know I wouldn't care if they were in my rape survivor group or ritual or anything else. 99% of the ones I've met have been utterly indistinguishable from any other woman, in attitude, dress, or emotional upheaval. The small portion of those who claim to be transgendered who are nasty or rude or bizarre are the outliers.

  2. I agree with you on some points although I have been to Pagan Festivals where there are specific areas and rituals for private rituals - red tent for women's blood mysteries, for example - no men allowed, women born women only. If women can't have some private space - or men for that matter - I'll stay home.
    As for nasty, rude or bizarre transgender folks - that is not the point at all, there are nasty & rude people of every persuasion. The point is the experience of womanhood through life - transgender women did not grow up as female and therefore their experience will not be female.
    It does not give them the right to tell women they can't have exclusive covens or rituals. Nor does it give anyone else the right to viciously attack women who choose to follow a Dianic Feminist path and that's the real point.
    I have received SO much good from the Dianic path, this is a very close to my heart.

  3. Very brave post. Here is my opinion - Women have fought for their rights every bit as much as any other group of people who were enslaved, diminished and treated as less than human. And many of us fight just as hard as the others, including gays/transgendered people to keep the status we have fought for. That, by the way, includes the right to form our own groups and have rules within these groups. And so, it's inevitable that occasionally, there will be disagreement between groups and that's ok. Like you said, if one group won't accept you, find another group or create your own. I'm so sick of this blanket of "tolerance," prevalent in this society, one that, for example, threatens to put certain groups above the law of the country in favor or respecting their horrific religious practices because heaven forbid in our attempt to protect women we be viewed as religion intolerant! . While I believe in human equality, I also believe in an individual's right to form groups and make group rules. In this case, a private group of women have every right (and have fought hard for this right) to include or exclude whoever they want in their PRIVATE group without it becoming a bigger "issue." I mean, honestly who wants to be a part of a group that doesn't want you? Is this about REALLY wanting to join the group - or is this yet another battle to further a cause - and in the process further alienate us from each other?

  4. Thank you Aine. We are on the same page, excellent points. I have been "interviewed" by several groups that I joined at various times in my life before I was accepted into the group. I know there were times when they refused certain individuals for various reasons. What about OUR rights - don't we have a say regarding who we associate with?
    Good question, why WOULD someone want to be part of a group who feel they have no connection to you? What could you possibly gain and enjoy from being part of such a group?
    Will we need to go underground again, as in times past, to hide what we do? Everyone wants freedom for themselves, but they don't seem to want to extend that freedom to others.

  5. This is an ongoing debate that gets reignited too often, fueled by hurt feelings and charged accusations of discrimination. Sadly I don't think we've found the right solution to create a inclusive safe space for everyone. It just isn't as simple as we'd like. That said, I *am* optimistic that we as a community are now more committed to finding a better way to address the issue.

    Our transgendered brothers and sisters have a unique experience. I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it must be to live thru adolescence knowing you're in the wrong body, your family and society telling you that everything you feel is wrong, that you are male or female dependant on plumbing. To make the decision of gender reassignment requires years of therapy and a mind boggling series of surgeries. Clearly worth it to look in the mirror and recognize that your inner self now matches your outer self. It enables these people to have relationships and to be honest in expressing themselves in a way they could not before.

    But none of that will ever give a MtF transgendered the experience of growing up female. They are distinct and separate journeys.

    Many of these women-only groups were born out of a need to create safe space, to heal from childhood violence or even to find a voice after a lifetime of being silenced in a male dominated culture. A defining element that creates a feeling of commonality is knowing the people you are with have also experienced their lives as women. All of their lives. And if that is what these individuals need, who are we to disparage them for it? Whether this is a temporary measure to purge damage or a lifetime devotion seems less important than their right to this space.

    I don't think CAYA - or any other group - intentionally set out to exclude anyone, but in creating a safe space focus has become very narrow. Maybe the way to address this in public gatherings is to have red tent rituals, men only rituals, rituals open to everyone *and* a ritual for those who want to sanctify the experience of transformative gender identity. Perhaps our trangendered pagans could help us walk the path of Dionysus, Loki and so many others who transformed themselves beyond the boundaries of one sexual identity. It's not about pretending you've been this gender all your life, it's about celebrating the extraordinary journey into the shadow to embrace what was missing and complete yourself. Inanna is surely smiling on these individuals.

    Above all, it must begin with respect for these separate spaces and the people who seek out the sacred in whatever way they choose, be it as the God, the Goddess or both together. Dianics and transgendered alike.

  6. Well said, Susie! In order to receive respect, people must be respectful - of everyone's experiences and needs.

  7. I agree about the idea being raised a female is something men cannot understand. I point is when someone is assigned as female at birth, but later is found to be XY, then the social construction argument falls apart. Same hold true for those born male, reassigned in infantry, even early childhood and while this is a small minority, we must consider, these persons are raised female; they have the same female world experience, sometimes more dark because they often carry their secret inside, feeling inferior as persons.

    This also reminds me of the vast distinction between the old concept of classic transsexuals who are only attracted to me and seem leery of women. This gives me reason to question why, so called 'lesbian' transsexuals are not more aware of their obvious difference?

    For me, the difference is not genetics, or even mainly biology, rather it is our cultural experience. Some women have inter-sex conditions, yet are still as much women as those more fortunate. As for transsexuals, speaking for myself, I think those who are least likely to attempt it identify as lesbian are the most authentic and I shall let them be, as they ask only to be anonymous.

  8. This just saddens me. I think I will remain solitary

  9. This specific topic can make me very angry. I am pleased to hear other people in support of women-born-women space. I have several transgendered friends, and try as I might, I still think it's a form of identity crisis caused by rigid social standards. Gender does not exist. It was socially created, it is perception.

    To say I am a woman so I wear dress, or I am a man so I do not, is total and complete bullshit. There are NO preferences specific to any gender, sexual or otherwise. Our preferences are our preferences. We are individuals. Our "plumbing" as people keep calling it, is our SEX, not our GENDER! It affects not only how we reproduce, but our very chemical makeup, (an infertile or post menopausal woman is STILL a woman biologically) the male and female brain function very differently. This is a scientific fact. Not in whether we choose to stay home and cook, or go to an office, but in how we process information, and chemicals within us. This is what make males and females different, contrary to those who try to push that we are the same. What nature created us as Male, or female, ONLY has to do with the inner structures of our body. You can not be born in the "wrong" body (though intersex people do have an internal system unique to them). You can however feel that you do not identify with the social roles placed on you, and THIS is why people change genders (not sexes, note). Many FtM people have stopped acting socially as women because it is more difficult than the male experience (this in their own words). I think this is just more crap from social pressure. Transgender folks are no different from any other minority. What about a white individual who enjoys African culture, and Hip and Hop? They feel they don't identify with "white culture" and it's stereotypes? Do they make themselves darker, and start identifying as African-American? They cannot possibly know what it is like to be black! Or an asian woman? Is it perfectly fine for her to get plastic surgery on her eyes to appear more "white" so she fits a beauty standard? Or women who get breast implants? This is all the same as transgender! It is altering yourself to fit a social standard. Is this healthy? All the same NO ONE should have the right to tell them NO, it is up to them. You are who you are. You cannot be born "wrong" your body functions and looks as it does, and there would be no problem with it if there were no outside influences. If you are a male who is uncomfortable "using" your penis, or have hate towards it, that sounds like a psychological issue, it doesn't mean you are a women...

  10. (continued)

    ...All that being said, I am also often offended by MtF transgender individuals "interpretations" They don't "feel" male so they put on a dress, boobs, and makeup and start obsessing about "girly things"? This to me is the epitome of stereotyping, and it takes feminism back by decades! A woman is not defined by her clothing, or beauty, roles in relation to men! And a male, of any kind, has no place identifying what a woman is or is not! This view and depiction of women is all wrong!

    Further more, the female body mirrors the moon, and her cycles, we mirror the Earth, our MOTHER. Birth mysteries, blood mysteries, all mysteries of the cunt and how it is the pathway to the womb/void! The primordial sea that cradled all human life was feminine in nature. All life begins female, and must also pass through the female. Be it plants, animals, or single celled organisms. THIS is how witchcraft was born! This is why we follow the seasons, and the moon! THIS is why WOMEN born women are witches, because we have these mysteries and their power inside of us. If males would be more focused on discovering their own mysteries, rather than stealing ours maybe we wouldn't have these problems!

    I am sick of women constantly being pushed to the side for tolerance's sake! Colleges began to teach Women's Studies, shortly after? It became women's and transgender studies, or just "gender studies". Why is it tolerance when women are pushed aside? But "angry man hating bigotry" when we speak up for our rights?

    I am no bigot, and I hate no one. I am a lesbian, and a pagan, how could I possibly be a bigot?! I love my transgender friends, and I want them to be safe, happy, and at peace. I want them to be free to express themselves as they choose. On the other hand, I also wish to be free as a women. The freedom to exclude is a right that has been LONG denied of women. We must accept and lay down always! We are not given the right to flat out say NO! And the transgender individuals that do not understand our reasons for wanting a women-born-women space, only personifies the fact that they are not truly women!

    I am saddened by the fact that there is such a thing as "transgender". That the patriachy's picking and choosing what is and isn't MANLY is so strong and ingrained so deeply into some folks that they feel they must mutilate their healthy bodies and reprogram their minds to fit in! THIS is what is sad. And also the fact that I cannot express this to them and say, "it's ok to just be you! No assembly required! I love you as is" without being called hateful.

    1. I know this is an old post, but thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for saying this. Women-born spaces are where I go when I want to celebrate being a woman, where I go when I need the comfort of other women who have experienced the same things I have. I am exhausted with men and those who have been raised as men telling me how I should exist as a woman. Whether it's "be pretty, smile, etc" or "no, you can't have women's studies or women things without also including trans things" -- it's the same sense of entitlement. I'm not denying trans people their identity but I am so tired of them trying to dilute and modify mine.

  11. Many good points - I hadn't thought of some of this from the view you make. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here. Blessings nine! XO

  12. Call it what you will, but ask any minority, anytime you advocate not just for your own spaces, but advocate those spaces at the specific exclusion of others feels and smells just like bigotry--and this country does not need anymore prejudice or mean-spirited people. Why don't you leave ts women alone and focuse on some other group of people to scapegoat, which is such a white, privileged trait. Some of these comments actually sound like white men lamenting the inclusion of women into their spaces...gees. I think bigotry is simply a part of the white culture. We'll never get away from it while living in this often bigoted society.

  13. I'm sick and tired of hearing the "bigotry call" because private groups choose to limit membership. Private groups - do you understand what that means? So what's your point - no one has a right to private groups anymore, all covens must be open to everyone, all clubs open to whoever wants to join - no choice, no freedom? Gee... yourself! That sounds like communism. You are saying that all groups must be open or the members are bigots - I take it that means rape victims support groups must be open to rapists? Incest survivors groups must be open to those who commit incest, abused women's support groups should be open to men who abuse? Men's mysteries groups must include women? Where does it end? And stop the shit with the "bigotry is part of white culture" - it's getting old and it is a lot of crap today. There's bigotry enough by plenty who are not "white" - I have experienced it myself; it has nothing to do with this issue. Women's groups are NOT about bigotry. "TS women" and the bleeding hearts who want to cause trouble are the ones stirring the pot by insisting on no choice for groups that choose to have women-born women only. TS folks are unique and should have their own mystery groups too, that is very important, there are mysteries that only apply to them and their magick. There are plenty, I would say the majority of groups open to them and very few women-born women only groups. One other thing, if you really feel so strongly about this, have the courage to sign your name.

  14. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  15. The point is not male oppression - the point is experiencing being female, growing up female and all that entails. While male oppression is certainly a part of that, it is not the whole enchilada. I am talking about, since you don't seem to have read what I wrote, the female experience - which you DID NOT experience as a male. Your experience is completely different and is certainly beyond difficult.
    The other point of this article is that a women's group - or any private group has the right to decide membership criteria. Since many of you don't agree with this and choose to pull the racist card, there isn't anymore to say. Closing comments for this post because I am tired of explaining the same thing again and again to people who really don't want to hear it - they would rather call names and take away freedom from others. You have a whole world of mysteries to explore as transgender - why aren't you doing it?

  16. Comments are closed for this post. Any comments submitted will not be published. There are basically two sides here - those who want power over women, calling them bigots if they choose who they wish to associate with in a ritual setting and those of us, I guess the bigots according to transgenders and bleeding hearts, who choose freedom.

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Removed upon request of the person to whom the comment was made.

  18. Thank you for this post! I am not Dianic but my path is exclusive to being in Women's Mystery Circles with women born women. I have recently expressed that and have gotten a lot of the backlash you have described. I totally understand that I will lose friends over the issue. I am prepared for it. I live my life real. I live my life on Life's terms. I want and need my safe space and that need is not any less important than a transperson's need for safe space.