One of the more disturbing things about the uproar among some mistakenly calling themselves ‘woke,’ while attacking natal women-only rituals in a Pagan context, is their failure to distinguish between universal human standards and those focused on honoring a particular dimension of the sacred.
Treating trans people as moral and intellectual equals in the context of daily life as well as the law, is a position I and most so-called ‘TERFS’ have always held. Further, the argument that in a spiritual or religious context honoring the sacredness of embodiment and the cycles of life, it is appropriate in some contexts for those who have actually experienced those cycles to engage in ritual among themselves in no way disparages those who do not qualify in this particular context- for we all have contexts of greater or lesser individuality where the sacred speaks most distinctly to us.
I am a man who is not welcome on women only rituals, and am in no way offended by that. Were I to design a ritual for young men coming into sexual awareness, I would not think of involving women in its planning, but neither would I think women were in any sense inferior.
Increasingly I find myself wondering whether the most rabid among those who criticize the legitimacy of natal women only rituals are also attacking the legitimacy of NeoPaganism as it arose and is practiced. They are not ‘companions on the path’ but rather taking a different path, while attacking ours.
One can be a Pagan and not be a NeoPagan. Conservative Hindus are as sexist and patriarchal a group as any on earth. Some (not all) modern Norse traditions are deeply patriarchal. Both clearly distinguish themselves from NeoPagans, even if by a more abstract standard we are all Pagans. I think the same is true for those attacking natal women only rituals. They are different from all of these- focusing on far more abstract and mental dimensions of spirituality. Which, of course, is their right.
But it is not their right to seek to control the practices of others with a different focus.
They should mind their own business, for we certainly do not tell them how to practice whatever it is that they call their religion. We can criticize one another – that’s fair – but a fair criticism is that a belief we have that shapes our practice is not justified in terms of the larger context of that practice.
For example, one could argue, (though I have no idea how), that honoring the cycles of fertility in a natal woman’s life, including first menses and menopause, are inappropriate for a religion that honors the sacredness in embodiment. That would be a legitimate approach to criticizing practices some trans activists find objectionable, though I think my simply stating it demonstrates its pointlessness.
One could criticize honoring embodiment as a dimension of the sacred. Many Buddhists and apparently some Hindus and Christians do. But such people have no business considering themselves in any serious way connected to those of us who do. If it exists, our common ground is at a more abstract level – such as acknowledging the centrality of kindness/compassion/love.
So I would argue those who reject central tenets of NeoPaganism have no place in determining who can or cannot present at any broadly Pagan gathering in this country.