Monday, December 19, 2011

Tolerating Men and Transgender individuals in Goddess spirituality.

 * Note from Devin- This post has nothing to do with one specific priestess! This is an exercise in my own spiritual growth. I felt the need to post this now as it has been a project that has haunted me for sometime. In no way am I pointing fingers, merely stating my own observation and noting my own struggles as a priest in the Goddess Tradition. I love my fellow star children regardless of gender. Luckily there have been some amazing women who have stepped forward to help find an end to this issue. *

    I have sat down several times to write this post. Actually most of the reason why I haven’t posted anything for some time has more to do with the fact that this post was not easy for me to sit down and write. After forgotten drafts, angry fist shaking at my monitor, and Goddess awesomeness I think I finally have found at least the angle to take this.

    Truth be told to sit down and type out the complexities of divine relationships would not only be redundant but a little silly, however I also know that  very little is out there about people like me- men who found the Goddess and how our relationships developed. I run the risk of placing men against women yet again and please know that has nothing to do with the point I am going to attempt to make here. Alright enough pre-amble lets do this-

    I look around me, especially as a Dianic Priest, and I see all of these truly amazing priestesses. All of these women are the physical/spiritual embodiment of Goddess and have been such points of inspiration. I am not inspired by their ability to look fabulous in ritual jewelry nor their ability to command the attention of a room full of hundreds, but inspired by their sheer drive to be who they are- proud women who fought hard in their own lives to be extraordinary examples of spiritual development. I am disheartened however at the sheer amount of dislike and snobbery these priestesses have when it comes to guys like me.

    In many ways this reminds me of a school assembly I had when I was a child. We were all rounded up in the gymnasium and the principal introduced an all African American rap group. As the music came on over the speakers and the teachers took their seats the lights dimmed and we were treated to an hour of anti-racism musical education that was all wrapped up like a Halmark advert.

     I remember the word ‘Tolerance’ being thrown about several times throughout the presentation and feeling like something was not quite right.

    When the assembly was at an end we were invited to ask questions once back in class and I asked what the word Tolerance meant. I was instructed to look in the dictionary ( as any good teacher would have you do ) and I was completely taken aback! My fifth grade jaw hit the floor.

Tolerance: To endure, put up-with due to need.  ( Thankfully the word now has a more elaborated definition!)

    Tolerance to me was ridiculous, no one should be tolerated, we should just be able to be. We tolerate the barking dog, the tax hikes, the other million things that cause us little stresses and annoyances but to tolerate African Americans seamed wrong to me. Perhaps it was because of my mother and her strict - “ Think Human not color” approach to parenting, but I never saw the point in putting up with a group of people who just happen to have darker skin than me. So this brings me full circle-

     I don’t like being tolerated by priestesses. Its demeaning. It is absolutely arrogant to look down on me and assume that your path is in any way more valid or deeper than mine or other men who work with Goddess. I am not an abusive man, I would never lay a finger on a woman, yet I feel like because I have a penis I am automatically stamped with “Tolerate Me” on my forehead. I don’t want to be tolerated anymore than you do sister.

    Truthfully, the entire gender dynamic snafu of the neo-pagan movement irks me. I look at my brothers and I see family, I look at my sisters and I see family. I couldn’t care less about someone’s gender (outside of what I want to be cuddling up to at the end of the day) and much more about how they are living their life. Are they empowered? Are the living embodiments of self possession? Are they connected to the here and now?  Ironically ( and yes you Fem Fatals can agree with this one!) more women who demand respect as priestesses have bigger issues with self-possession, empowerment, and connectedness than there are those who simply embody those things. I have seen more bigotry and close mindedness from women in my pagan career than from any man.

      Recently I have embarked on a bit of a spiritual journey of my own, one that I have no doubt is going to force me to deal with this issue. (Again it has taken me some time to find the words for this.) As an ecstatic priest in an ecstatic tradition I find that when I am at my best I am letting go and surrendering to Goddess. Now, you must also realize in our tradition we go about Goddess in two ways.

     The first is that Goddess is here on earth, she is earth, she is the spirit of empowerment in all of us. For us she is the Queen of the Witches, Diana mother of Aradia, lover of the Light Bearer ( Splendour) , she is mystery, experience, something to strive to become as you light and feed the sacred fire within. She is most importantly to us -Mother.

     The Second is an expansion of the first, Diana then becomes the Cosmic mother who is for all intensive purposes the divine pre-gender force that all things came from. In scientific terms God Herself  or for clarification the ACLG  ( Androgynous Cosmic Life Giver) is the point of singularity that was everything before the big-bang. We see God Herself as the divine nature of the cosmos manifest in all matter and in all things as all things are of her. We don’t separate ourselves from this ACLG nor do we divide it up into halves.

     In our practices we believe ourselves to have been created whole with no missing or extra pieces. This means that if you have a penis or a vagina or  receive those bits later on in life, they are simply parts of you! Sometimes those parts need to be created and fought for and through that work we are brought closer to the divine. Essentially, there is nothing wrong with any of us, merely the baggage that weighs us down from a life time of being told there was. We are Goddess, we are God, we are God Herself.

      I mention all of the above because it is important for you the reader to know where I am coming from. To me and others within our line gender is not an issue, let alone THE issue. We open our arms to all those who feel called to the work of empowerment, sacred self possession, and connectedness. We totally understand that for others this is not the case and respect that soul’s need for work centered around their sexuality. We do offer circles and practices specifically for the healing and empowerment around gender and as such have women only and men only space always available for those in need, again we just try not to allow it to be the end-all be-all to our work.

     In many ways this is too how I feel about my own sexuality. I grew up in a backwards little town in the middle of no-where Ohio and I fought everyday of my youth to not allow my sexuality to be cause for alarm or bigotry. I didn’t think my sexuality was anyone’s business nor was it any reason to separate me out in a crowd. I just didn’t think it should matter. As you could imagine in my spiritual life I never wanted my sexuality to matter either, but it did, and it still does to others.

      I found Goddess the first time when I was a wee little guy. I remember glimpses of her as a child soothing me when I was scared and confused. I found her in my pillow after being hit and beaten by my step-father. I found her again when I turned thirteen in a field under the full moon. I found her a few times as I would hold my head high and walk through the halls of High School as I got spit on and beaten up.  I found her a third time in the tears I shed after I was rapped and everything fell a part. I found her when my sister gave birth to a beautiful and healthy little boy.

      I find her every time I make love, when I dance all night to the drums as I lift my hands up towards the sky in divine reverence, I find her when I look at my own mother who works so hard to make it in life, I find her in myself as I write this blog.

       I have said it a million times, I simply wouldn’t be here if the Goddess had not been with me. For being a young man I have already lived quite the life. Some things I am proud of, others I work to heal the shame that I harbor for. I am just as connected to her ( albeit not via a gender lens) and in some cases connected to her for the same reasons as those women who tolerate me “stealing their Goddess.” I haven’t stolen her ladies, she stole me!

     The hardest part of this for me is to come face to face with the notion that women who I support whole-heartedly in their own interpretation of the work still don’t respect my position and path.  There is still an air of arrogance between the lines that spill forth. I can’t change that though no matter how hard I try. There will always be the Z. Budapests of the world who despite their cries for equality and justice refuse to give it as freely to others as they would expect it given to them.

      These women are warriors, they are fighters, they are lovers, and they are mothers but at some time they need to learn to be human- if only for the sake of living with other humans and acknowledging engaging in all her mysteries and all that she creates. It’s still bigotry just with a different flavor.

      So to all those priestesses out there who have found their home in the arms of the Goddess keep it up please the world needs you! However next time you put your shoes on know that I put mine on the same way, next time you feel that a man couldn’t possibly understand have enough respect not to presume we don’t have at least one shared story, and whatever you do next time you jump to the conclusion that the Goddess is somehow not as connected to men or transgender individuals as Goddess is to women- know that you are being a judgmental and hurtful person who missed out on one of the greatest chapters in her book.

      To you men and trans folks out there who have found your home in the arms of the Goddess keep it up too, we definitely need more of you! Goddess is alive and you are the proof.

Namaste- I honor the divinity within you.



  1. wow, i guess i dont really know about this... i have heard a little dialog here, and there, but what i can't believe is that anyone would be singled out.... The history of the goddess for me is loving mother... loving all...and for anyone to choose to separate anyone of us from loving the divine ... is horrible... i too have tried to find more than what i was raised upon, and i have been abused as a child as well, and found the goddess to turn to ...and I'm proud of who i am, and all my brothers, and my sisters... we are all family... didn't we learn anything, after all those innocent people who were tortured, and killed for their beliefs... Now we have freedom to choose to believe what we want...I commend you Devin for standing up, and choosing to have a voice everyone gets so afraid that they allow themselves to be victimized....I'm so blessed to have you as my teacher, my brother, my friend, and I'm sorry that there are still prejudices, even within this to all my spiritual sisters, and brothers... we all should all be loved for who we are... Goddess is must it be...

  2. Thank you for discussing what is a very sensitive yet important reality of pagan life.

    In my opinion Wicca, and its Neo-Pagan offshoots, was destined for feminine dominance ever since Gerald Gardner created a religion that venerated a Goddess as the pre-eminent deity. Now I don’t think this was Gerald Gardner’s intention. I’ve been reading a lot lately about the early days of Wicca and frankly the man comes off as a homophobic chauvinist, but I believe Wicca and the rest of the Neo-Pagan religions attract larger numbers of women for this reason.

    Let’s face it. The dominant monotheistic religions in Western societies are patriarchal. I was raised Episcopalian. I can remember as a child the frustration my mother expressed over the lack of parity in the Church.

    So here is this magical religion that venerates a pre-eminent Goddess and then along comes the 60s and the feminist movement. The two were ripe for a convergence.

    Of course that doesn’t mean the Feminist Dianics are any more correct than the Christians. In my opinion both patriarchal and matriarchal religions miss the mark. The One, The Star God/dess, God Herself, is beyond female or male, beyond feminine or masculine; beyond straight or gay; beyond transgender; beyond matriarchy or patriarchy. S/he is both sexes and other sexes we don’t even know about. Think of a great blinding diamond. Every God and Goddess is but a shining facet of an infinite whole. S/he is the Father-Son-and the Holy Ghost, S/he is Mary Mother of God, S/he is Nirvana, S/he is Isis-Apollo-Diania-Aradia-Cernunnos-etc., S/he is you, S/he is me, S/he is every sentient being that has ever existed or ever will. Each facet is complete in and of itself, distinct, but also part of something greater.

    To be in the presence of God Herself is to experience a LOVE and ECSTASY that defies human comprehension. I experienced HIR for only a brief period in my childhood. I believe that is why Victor Anderson advocated achieving a state of innocence the Feri call the Black Heart of Innocence. It takes perfect trust to experience perfect love.

    It is easier to understand the divine as a something similar to ourselves. That is why polytheism is so attractive, which is only reinforced when we have actual spiritual experiences with the different gods and goddesses. The sexual mysteries are also worthwhile in understanding ourselves and our place in this world. But these things are only stepping stones to a greater whole. The truth is men and women are more alike than we are different. If a witch or wizard can accept this truth then s/he will know beyond any doubt that there is no place for sexism in the Craft.

  3. Thank you for this post, I hope it makes it's way around the community as it has many teachable moments.
    Namaste to you as well.
    -Kat, Organizer of Central Maryland Pagans

  4. There is an overwhelming reverse sexism that has crept into Wicca over the years. It is driving the male of the species away from Wicca completely.

    Recently I was studying with a third degree priestess of the Unicorn Tradition here in Alabama. When she didn't like something I posted on my FaceBook, she rushed to correct me. When she realized that I wasn't going to stand for her correction (because I was posting from a Chaos Magick POV) she accused of "mansplaining" thing to her.

    Mansplaining? Really? What sexist tripe! What a SHAMEFUL mark of an unenlightened soul!

    I have since walked away from Wicca because so many priestesses are such sexist snobs it is disgusting. Thanks for this wonderful article. As for me, I'll stick with the Golden Dawn trad.

  5. I am not in the Goddess tradition but I can only imagine the divisiveness those who are must be struggling with. I am also heartened that Devin found the courage and strength to speak up about his experiences both personal and communal. Thank you, Brother. In striving for reconciliation, you are a true Priest.

    I did want to mention something about terminology, however, regarding Vick D'Mental's comment. As this conversation unfolds, I would like to discourage us all from using the term "reverse sexism" as no such thing exists.

    In fact, sexism is a one way street - that of institutionalized male privilege. The patriarchal cornerstone upon which all of our institutions stand. Sexism, like Racism, is the equation of "Privilege + Power". As such, Reverse Sexism, like Reverse Racism, is a misnomer and one that ignores the immense privilege held by those with institutionally-backed power, ignoring histories of subjugation.

    Discrimination, however, might be apropos. Possibly even Bigotry. But Sexism, like Racism, speaks to a top-down affair - not across lines.

    Be Blessed and May We All Keep Rising

  6. Hi, Khi.

    First off, let me thank you for pointing out that, yes, sexism is sexism. You're right.

    When I say "reverse sexism" I specifically mean the attitude that some feminists take towards men. There is this weird belief that gay people can not be homophobic -- we can. Similarly, I've heard it argued that black people can not be racist -- they can be. Likewise, I have heard it said that some feminists can not be sexist -- yes, they can.

    When I say "reverse sexism" I simply mean that those who claim they can not be sexist quite often are. In this regard, I view reverse sexism as equal to sexism but based on the obscene notion that somehow because Group A discriminated against Group B at some point, Group B now has the right to discriminate against Group A.

    You're right in that reverse sexism is a misnomer. However I will continue to use the term to imply a reactionary stance towards gender bias.

    Maybe a better term would be "reactionary sexism."

  7. Devin,
    I found myself reading over the post again. It is sooo good. As I read it the first time I honestly didn’t know where you were going to go with it. I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t expect the sharing of such deeply personal history. I feel blessed that you are willing to share it. Reading what you experienced has spurred me to sit and reflect on my past, what I experienced growing up and my beliefs back then. I was raised Lutheran but I never had the connection to the God figure of Christianity. I don’t think I had a connection to any spiritual figure for a long time. Now I am to the Goddess. I have also felt the frustration of the female dominance when it comes to Wiccan teaching or authors. Yea some of them make a brief mention about us men but it is usually short and devoid of the flourish afforded the rest of the book.

    We are innately born with both sexes and even after the dominate one emerges the other is still there, sitting in silence but yet influencing us in ways we may not realize. A call to the Goddess is that recessive side, the female side. It is my belief that to deny our female aspect is to deny the Goddess and all she has to offer. I may be a male but I am damned sure not going to ignore the wonders of the Goddess no matter what anyone says.
    Blessed Be.

  8. This is a good post, Devin, and thank you for writing it! (I came to it via a link that Star did on her Pantheon blog post today over at Patheos.)

    I just have one question, and I hope you don't think of it as nit-picking or as in any way attempting to undermine what you've done here. (Usually that's a bad way to preface a question, as what follows will tend to do exactly that, but...!?!) I agree that there is a lot of anti-male sentiment that can be found in various sections of more liberal social groups; I also agree that there is an awful lot of trans exclusion in all areas of society, and modern paganism in almost all of its forms is no exception. But, I wonder about one other thing which you've not mentioned, and whether or not it has impacted your thoughts (and if it hasn't, you're certainly not alone in that): what about those of us who are neither male nor female, and who are not cisgendered but aren't trans either? While you did mention the ACLG several times above, it is not my own experience that my gender is either androgynous, or that it is in any way a kind of mix, etc., it's simply a further possibility, and there are many other further possibilities as far as I have known and experienced the genders of other people in similar positions to myself.

    I'm certainly not suggesting you are doing this, but I have experienced a kind of active refusal to take such people as myself seriously (and not just in modern paganism), and that even though trans people are often treated quite poorly, they are given at least some credit for "picking one" of the commonly recognized genders and going with it, rather than being what we actually are while being told that what we are doesn't exist and we're simply deluded.

    It's not something I'm asking you to answer, or to "fix," but something I'm just wondering aloud here...If you have any thoughts or insights, I'd be very interested in hearing them!

  9. Thank you all for even reading this! I had no idea that the post would get circulated the way it has! I truly appreciate your time and interest.

    I don't even know where to begin to respond! I will be posting part 2 to this tonight Gods willing.

    To respond to you directly aediculaantinoi:

    Truth be told I haven't the words I wish I did to respond- merely because it deserves a response! :P So I will try my best.

    Gender goes much deeper into our psyche than the physical bits, the hormones, and the typical roles. I find myself feeling that more and more gender is a human production. I find that when I look through history I see a shift from equality of the sexes to dominance over one or the other and it all just leaves a bad taste in my mouth! I am a man who loves men, I love their bodies, their smells, their chest hair- the animal inside of me loves men. I expect the animal in all of us has some sort of preference. Aside from my lust for other men there is no other division in my mind between the sexes. As I said in the post it's a non-issue for me and always has been.

    I can not speak to a woman's perspective, a trans perspective, nor an inner-sex perspective. Do I believe we all have the same right to worship, find divinity, and do whatever it is we feel the need to do? YES!

    I suppose bottom line I just think we are all star-children. I can only speak to my life and path. I believe that placing a monopoly on Goddess is anathema to the greatness of the work. Goddess should be shared not restricted. The only fix there is to this is to be the change we want to see in the world. I can support you and others who feel drawn to Goddess, and hell you come to our circles and be with us- people who don't care what sex you are. But if you feel the need then circles and mysteries you have experienced should be shared! I hope I addressed your question- I found your response to be incredibly fascinating and eye-opening! Inspiring!

  10. I am with you fully on this Devin.

    We are all together in this world. In my own view we do all have our different things to offer the Goddess, as well as the God. The Feminine as well as the Masculine are needed.

    It is sad that from going from one extreme many seem to go to the completely opposite extreme. Completely side stepping the middle ground. I agree with the words of equality, and truly try to live with that view in my life. My spiritual family is my spiritual family. The Dianic path, while not my path does have a lot to teach that I can learn.

    A very strong post David, thank you for writing it.

    Brett, Co-Host of The Young Witches show on Pagans Tonight and Main Street Universe.

  11. Devin, what a wonderful post. This is something that I know has been weighing on your mind for some time. Happy to see you found the words to express this issue.

  12. I agree with you, Devin, there can be a lot of intolerance (current usage) in modern Paganism. My path is Sumerian, and I never feel at home in the general community of mostly Wiccans/Celts. Come on over to my FB group, if you'd like. I don't care who follows what path, only that people play nice together.

  13. I've read this a dozen times and always wanted to leave a comment, but could not think of the words. Finally, I realized that CS Lewis had said it already.

    "You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body."

    Our outer shell should not matter when it comes to faith. It's what's in our hearts, what we feel in our souls that matters.

  14. I loved your blog and even though a part of me isn't surprised by the poor attitudes you've received as a male representative of the goddess, it still pains me to hear that my cynical side was proven right... especially by those that are spiritual teachers/healers. I guess that's a life lesson they'll either figure out or not, but it boggles my mind that gender bigotry continues to occur within Wicca and similar paths (especially by those who are supposed to be "more enlightened"... I know priests/priestesses are still human, but a lot of spiritual work, understanding, and experience is accomplished before one can/should be considered a spiritual guide to others. My optimistic side was hoping that most of the ego-based insecurity, hatred and snobbery would have been shed during the journey towards priest/priestess-hood. Anyway, back to my original point...).

    The big thing that some people forget is that "Feminine" and "Masculine" are traits/qualities/energies while Female and Male are 2 of a list of gender identities. You can be any gender and exhibit feminine and masculine qualities... both exist in all of us. Some of us resonate more with a certain energy over another... just as a certain pantheon can speak to us more than another. And yes, sometimes the pantheon in question is getting the seeker in touch with their ancestral roots, but there are many that follow Egyptian deities (or Celtic, or Eastern European, or Roman, or South American, etc...) without having any racial ties to that region in this lifetime. And yes, walking with the Goddess could make a female feel closer with her womanhood, but Goddess driven spiritual paths are not a girls only club house thingy. You're called to whom you're called to... and a Goddess (or a God) wouldn't attract you to their path if they didn't want you walking on it.

    So in a very ramble-y way, I'm saying that I agree with you, lol. And also, thanks for sharing your story :)

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