I’ve been working on this post in my head for awhile. Because the subject is a field of landmines.
PantheaCon has had what are called “ciswomen” or “women born of women” rituals, led by Z. Budapest, who has been a strong feminist and Dianic voice in the pagan community for longer than I have been alive. This ritual, by its construction and language, excludes transwomen.
Z. Budapest’s position is that women need their own culture, their own resourcing, their own traditions. Sharing those traditions with transwomen would cheapen the Dianic tradition, and that “Women are born, not made by men on operating tables” (see Transgender Issues in Pagan Religions).
Pantheacon also has rituals, events and panels for transwomen and transmen.
The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival is another women born women event.The policy on women born women exists because they believe women who were born female and grew up as girls have a fundamentally different experience than have males. They also believe it is important for these women to have a place to gather without the presence of men .
This is a private event, held on private property.
In a discussion about a local Beltane ritual being planned, the subject of the separation of men and women during the ritual came up. The organizers, after some deliberation, have decided to separate based on how the person identifies himself/herself rather than checking their bits at the door. Because, no one wants to be the penis police.
Leaving the perception of bigotry aside (and there is frightening amounts of conflict over this subject in a community that is already on the fringe of society, which I’ll talk about in a later post), I’m only going to deal with the biology part.
A core tenet of the feminism that I grew up with is, “Biology is does not and must not equal destiny.” The idea that women should not be held down by traditionally feminine gender roles relating directly to their sexual organs was a key step in moving away from those socially constructed gender roles and moving into traditionally masculine spheres of influence like the boardroom, the court room and the chambers of Congress.
The women I grew up with as role models were mothers and wives, traditionally feminine roles. They also worked in traditionally masculine professions. They never believed that just because they were women, there were certain things they couldn’t do. They believed that anyone could do anything if they worked hard enough, regardless if they had a penis or not.
The logical vice versa of that, for me, is if you identify as a woman, if you live as a woman with all of the pain and inequality that entails, you are a woman. Because your biology is not your destiny.
Yet I see Z. Budapest and Michfest saying, “Wait, your biology is your destiny. Your life is different because you are a woman born woman.”
I don’t see a difference between Rick Santorum or Michelle Bachmann saying my biology is my destiny or Z. Budapest saying it. They share the same fundamental misunderstanding. Gender identity is created by individuals and society, not by biology.
Despite all indications to the contrary in the media, on a personal, anecdotal level, the young women and men I see coming up in the world are changing how they see gender identity and biology. Some strive for androgyny, some strive for balance, some identify strongly with one gender or the other. But these are conscious choices and none of their destinies are rooted in their biology.
Your mileage will most certainly vary.