Friday, February 24, 2012

You Decided To Love Anyway

I, like many pagans, have returned from Pantheacon 2012 this week with so many stories, experiences, lessons learned and questions to ponder.  While there is so much to write about from the entire weekend, I want to start with what had the largest impact on my time at con - Sunday afternoon and evening.

So, I think to give you an understanding of my experience I want to start by giving you some background on my history with the gender issues raised at Pantheacon 2011:
  • I am an Amazon High Priestess in the Lineage of The Lady Yeshe Rabbit.  
  • I was at the Amazon's Rite of Lilith at Pantheacon in 2011 as one of the HPs aspecting Lilith during the Rite.
  • I was a volunteer who worked on the event security team at the Pagan Alliance's Pagan Pride Festival in 2011.
  • I was a "staff" volunteer at the Pagan Alliance's 2011 Conference on Gender and Earth Based Spiritualities and was a facilitator in the Ritual of Radical Forgiveness that CAYA held during the event.  
  • I helped to priestess the Amazons' Queen of Hearts ritual at Pantheacon in 2012, open to all self-identifying women
  • I attended the Discussion on Gender and Transgender in Paganism at Pantheacon in 2012
  • I was present during the protest at Z. Budapest's Self-blessing ritual at Pantheacon in 2012
  • I helped to priestess the Rite of the Bear Mother, a ritual put on by The Living Temple of Diana and the CAYA Grove of Artemis at Pantheacon in 2012.

Queen of Hearts
My Tribe does skyclad (naked) ritual and we work with Women's Blood Mysteries.  We celebrate our bodies and our sovereignty as women in a time when women's bodies and women's rights over their bodies are a bone being fought over in the dogfight of politics and religion. To me, skyclad ritual is a means of allowing each woman in the room to show both strength and vulnerability.  I recognize that just the thought of naked ritual can create quite the emotional charge within a woman and that this charge can be one that is very easily pushed to an extreme reaction.  Because of this and because I am both a Virgo *and* a Warrior Priestess - I was mentally, emotionally, and magically preparing myself for *anything* that might happen before or during this ritual.  However, I am also a Great Lover who works with Aphrodite so I was also prepared to offer all the love in my heart that I had to give rather than be The Fighter.

The Queen of Hearts ritual, dedicated to Aphrodite, was about love in many forms, about facing challenges, and loving anyway. We are all put through many trials in our lives - trials of youth and inexperience, trials of adulthood that challenge our physical and emotional lives, trials of motherhood where giving everything seems it is too much and leaves you too little, trials that cause you to doubt whether you are worthy of any love at all.  These trials all come with a decision we must make: what are you going to do?

"You decided to love anyway." - this was the lesson that I took from the words of Aphrodite.

A transwoman came up to me after the Queen of Hearts ritual.  Her eyes glittered with tears and her smile was warm, yet tentative as she was unsure how I might receive her.  She thanked me for my part in the ritual,  one that truly moved her.  The Goddess was before me, in that moment.  A woman who stood before me, with courage, taking a risk in showing her beautiful self to me - she was naked, as I was, and we were sisters.  It was love, appreciation, gratitude, honor of her bravery and vulnerability that held my arms open wide in a welcome hug, thanking her for being there, for being her, and reflecting back to her the love of the Goddess.

She needed this space, too.  I understand that.  I have always understood that.  I have never wanted to deny her nor my sisters like her, this space.  Nor have I wanted to deny this kind of space to my cisgendered sisters who were not yet in a place where they could be in this circle, or any circle, with their transgendered sisters. So much work left yet to do...

Circle of Cerridwen

Because the Amazons', Queen of Hearts ritual was right before this discussion, I was still dressed in my Amazon finery, a.k.a. my "in the halls" outfit  (a red satin and black lace neglige, red and black sparkly eye makeup, my Red Cord, my Crown, other glittery bits in my hair, feathers adorning me, and other sacra attached in various places) when I attended the Circle of Cerridwen's "Discussion on Gender and Transgender in Paganism".  My covenmate and fellow Wildflower initiate, Jenn, happened to also be there and so we sat together in the South.

The session's ground rules were established by the facilitators.  The talking stick method would be used.  If you had the stick, you could speak. When you spoke, you were to try not to be overly apologetic and were asked to always speak respectfully towards others. If you didn't have the stick, you were to be respectful and listen in silence to those who spoke.  This would not be a session that allowed us to interactively respond to each other.  People would be given a chance to speak as much as time would allow for.  As this session was more, "each person gets to say their piece", the discussion was not directed by the facilitators of this event.  The facilitators noted that as this was a hot and emotionally charged topic, they had set up protections in the room.  The purpose of The Crow's presence was explained.

Now, it was stated The Crow was there as a protector and she clearly appeared there as a Warrior.  Though I think the organizers intended this role to serve as a protector rather than a visual symbol of intimidation.  At least, that is what I gather from Gina's posts on FB around her experience with being Crow during this session.  Unfortunately, the black make-up, the dark garb, the big staff (later noted, specifically, as a weapon - though it was ritually "laid down"), the silent staring through the discussion - the Warrior in me tried hard not to react to this as an intimidation/threat tactic even if the intimidation was meant only to "keep the peace" in the room. However, being a Warrior Priestess myself, and having mentally prepared for "battle" prior to the previous ritual, I could understand where she was coming from and I chose to take the enactment of this role in a more positive light.

I was a little concerned, at the time, about the framework of the session lacking all but the the rule about the talking stick.  I'm a Virgo - I like to know the intentions of a thing and the direction of which a thing will go.  However, one of the things that the Lady Yeshe Rabbit has taught me is that there are times where, despite my Virgo nature, I have to let go and trust in the process.  That is what I did here.  

We were asked to go around the room and introduce ourselves and note if we were speaking on behalf of an organization or if we were speaking for ourselves.  I stood up and said, "I am Salamangkero Yansumi.  I am an Amazon High Priestess, in the Amazon Priestess Tribe, of The Lady Yeshe Rabbit's lineage. I am part of CAYA Coven.  I speak today as a representative of my Tribe and Coven, and for myself."  For obvious reasons, the moment I spoke the word, "Amazon", the entire room physically shifted to see me (some turning in their seats to stare directly at me).  I could hear some people take in breath - whether they were shocked that an Amazon came to the discussion, whether they thought it was brave of an Amazon to step in there, whether they'd never seen an Amazon up-close-and-personal and wanted to verify what their ears just told them, it didn't matter.  I was suddenly a huge focus for the energy in the room.

Jamie, the co-head of Pantheacon programming, was the first to speak.  She began by explaining that she was there in her official capacity as co-head of programming.  She and her co-chair have a great deal of details and logistics that they have to work out each year when it comes to the offerings and schedule Pantheacon offers each year.  I have a great deal of admiration and respect for what it is that they do.  Jamie then explained that Z. Budapest had, with the help of the Pantheacon leadership (and after what I understand was a very dramatic argument with Pantheacon staff the night before), written a statement of apology that would be offered to the whole of Pantheacon and to those attending the planned protest of Z's offering at PCon. She also added that because she was there in her official capacity, she could not share her personal and differing opinion but that she'd share that to those who were curious when she was not wearing her "PCon Official" hat. 

I listened to the stories and words of those who chose to share.  Pain, anger, frustration, sadness, terror - these were the pervading factors in each of the stories shared.  So many of these things were let out and simply sat in the room for the duration of the session - it was hard not to let it feel so heavy upon one's soul and I can see how the "more sensitive" could have been troubled by this during the session.  However, it is important that these stories and feelings are witnessed and acknowledged and, in many cases, are offered healing for.  I wept for some who told their stories, I felt anger on behalf of those who were treated unjustly by others, I felt sorrow for the losses of family and friends that so many in the room had suffered.

I did not walk into the discussion with the intention of speaking.  What could I say about last year's events or even my own feelings on the matter, that has not been covered already and with far greater eloquence than I could ever muster? However, for me, the energy of the room dictated that I should speak up - that I should give a physical presence, a face, to the Amazon Priestess Tribe, in this particular space.  I felt it necessary for people to *see* (as many in this room hadn't already) that the words of apology that CAYA had issued, that the words of compassion from Yeshe Rabbit, that the steps CAYA had taken to make more clear our stance on gender and diversity - that these were all more than just pixels making words on an electronic screen and that they were real. I also realize that I can be, in person, rather physically intimidating to others (I'm a *big* 5'10" Irish+Filipina girl after all) and so I wanted to make it clear with my tone and emoting that I was there, in peace, to listen and try to go back to my Tribe with what I learned there. 

I acknowledged that I took the talking stick with a great deal of trepidation - the "laughter" in the room as a response to what I said, acknowledged that there was a very real possibility that I would be a target for some people who were in attendance.  I further acknowledged this uneasiness by making note that I was one of the priestesses who, during the Lilith ritual, aspected Lilith and that there may well be people here who would take issue with me for that alone.  I spoke of CAYA's apology (and re-iterated it), of our self-examination that has resulted in our not only being far more sensitive but far more clear on our use of a sometimes confusing language, of our wanting (genuinely) to hear from those who would help be part of the solution to this issue.  I spoke of the aftermath of the conflict that arose last year and how it tried to culminate in death threats but yet how violence is NOT the answer to solving these issues. I encouraged anyone who might take issue with what I said there, as I knew I would not always manage eloquence, to please speak directly with me afterwards as I am open and welcoming of questions to help clarify what I had said. 

When I had finished speaking and handed the talking stick back to Sarah, she asked me to stand before her in front of the whole room. She placed her hands together in a prayer position, bowed towards me and said, "I forgive you."  To which I nodded and simply said, "thank you" before I returned to my seat.  I felt it better to truly understand what I was feeling before having any kind of a reaction.  I was neither prepared for that moment nor did I know how i felt about it until many hours later.  This would be, as I found, a recurring theme for what happened next.

There was a woman who spoke shortly after I did.  I did not know who this woman was - I had never met her before.  Though I now know her name, I choose not to share it here.  She began by stating that she had two things to say.  The first (I don't remember much of the second) was her telling of a ritual preparation that she was taking part in and she noted that someone there had very nearly broken her neck.  This, of course, garnered a great deal of sympathy towards her from the room - myself included.  She then turned towards me and stated, her voice laced with gratitude, "...and Rabbit was VERY supportive." and she intentionally paused in her speech as though she were done and insinuating that Rabbit had been supportive of *her*.  I simply nodded my head in this woman's direction and then she angrily exclaimed, "OF THE PERSON WHO NEARLY BROKE MY NECK! Perhaps Rabbit should spend some time thinking about WHY she has to apologize all of the time!" During this, she was directing so much angry energy at me that was so incredibly misdirected - I had nothing to do with her conflict with someone else.   I resolved, quietly, to try and speak with her after the session was over.

At one point, Pantheacon's head Gryphon (I did not catch her name during the discussion and I was distracted from reaching out to her after the session was over) spoke on her experience after last year's Rite of Lilith.  She made a comment that, as I understood later, some people heard differently and took as an official position of Pantheacon staff.  She was noting how, after the Lilith ritual last year, she was consoling some of the gryphon volunteers because, "With NO intention on the part of the presenters, these Gryphons had felt as though they were asked to look down the pants of their sisters."  There were those in the discussion who heard, "because of the presenters, the Gryphons had to look down people's pants".  What I heard in her words was that she was trying to be careful in her phrasing.  I heard her stating that though it was NOT the intent of the presenters to cause hurt like this, hurt still manifested in people because of the presenters miscommunication. What I heard is that she, too, felt pain around this whole situation, understood that there were misunderstandings all over, and that she wanted to be part of the solution. 


It would do me no good to talk about how I remember seeing this woman at the Lilith rite.  Afterall, it isn't often that we have a transgendered sister come to our rituals so you remember it when it happens.  When I say that I recall seeing her there and that she was not kicked out of the ritual, I know that there are going to be a lot of people who don't believe me.  People have already made up their minds that there was a transwoman (or more than one) who was kicked out of the Rite of Lilith.  People were now making up their minds that this was the woman that it happened to.  I can say with certainty that this absolutely did not happen. I can't say that enough, I can't stress that enough - no one was kicked out.  That being said, I believe that Astrid has so completely convinced herself of this story that, to her, the experience she described is her own reality.  However, I am not here to shake Astrid of her recollection of last year's events nor to dissuade anyone from taking her words as truth.  I can only speak from my own experience.

Astrid began her talk, quietly, slowly.  She was the last in the room to be given the talking stick.  When folks in the room asked her to repeat herself, she turned to me and said, "I was the one who was kicked out.  I was told, to my face, that I was a man."  She continued to describe the pain and loss she's experienced in her life.  As she spoke, my inclination was to approach her after the session and offer my humblest apologies for any hurt that she might have suffered as a result of anything that I, or my coven, might have done.  I wanted to talk with her about her experience, to understand what happened to her the previous year, and learn what I could to help avoid anyone else being hurt (by me or mine) in the manner that she was.  I heard her pain and I wanted to help, if I could.

(edited for clarity on what happened with the talking stick, 2/24 2:47pm) Astrid said that she used to come to Pantheacon because, to her, it was safe space.  She then began to scream, with rage, "this is what a child of violence looks like! I was one of the original screaming queens that started the Stonewall riots!" She threw the talking stick to the ground and it bounced off somewhere, nearly striking several people who were in it's path.  In the shock and confusion that people were experiencing during that moment, the talking stick was retrieved and handed back to Astrid (though I think at that point it should have been time for the facilitators to step in to "slow things down" a bit, this didn't happen).  Astrid tried to break the talking stick, couldn't do it, ripped off her con badge, turned to me and while she directed the full energy of all the rage she had within her she screamed at me, "YOU WILL NEVER FORGET THE OTHERS!" and stormed out of the room.

It's important to say, here, that several people in the room felt that Astrid took some actions that felt as though she were about to draw a weapon and/or physically attack others in the room with her bare hands.  I certainly felt, as she turned to me and directed her rage at me, that she was going to launch herself with bared fists at me.  So, in that context, I can understand why no one tried to stop Astrid from what she was doing and I don't blame anyone for feeling fear, confusion, or frozen from action - it WAS a VERY scary few moments.

I was being drawn in, again, to be wounded for what I felt was the sole purpose of being wounded.  I understand, "an eye for an eye", though I do not personally subscribe to that method of behavior.  I understand wanting to make someone, by force, feel the same (or worse) pain that you yourself have felt.  But I also understand the concept of self-restraint, of compassion for others in the most difficult of situations, and as the ritual before this had emphasized, "love anyway".  I make no assumptions that a stranger, especially one that I have offered ritual energy to, would try to harm me with the intention of doing so.  Yet, here I was, enduring that very thing.

Like the warrior under the shield being bombarded with Dragon's Fire, I withstood this attack.  Make no mistake - this was both a physical and psychic attack upon my person.  I was not allowed to defend myself, I was not allowed to offer comfort - both of these were frustrating to me.  I was angry that the facilitators allowed her anger and rage and potential for hurting others to continue by handing her back the talking stick (I would have stopped things right then when the rules were broken).  I was angry that Astrid would choose to show such disrespect to those in the room who had taken great pains to be respectful of everyone in the room.  I was angry at being assaulted, in a very personal manner.

I really do try to see situations from many points of view.  I try to imagine what it feels like to walk in other people's shoes.  So imagine that in those few moments of Astrid attacking me, I flash to "seeing" directly from the shoes of different people experiencing this moment.  I see Astrid from the points of view of many sets of eyes, through the lenses of many emotional filters, some good, some not-so-good.  Their voices cry out to me under the thunderous roar of Astrid's rage:

i am the woman who has been beaten... i see my attacker... her physical body looms over me and becomes larger in my eyes, i'm filled with fear. RUN!  i see the definition of muscle flash under skin, oh god don't move and call attention to yourself... i hear the rage in that deepened voice, i can't breathe, i feel the physical violence coming out of memories...  RUN! She morphs from the softness of femininity into a hulking monster of aggressive male energy ...i'm going to get hit again... RUN!..
 I am the Warrior, looking upon a kindred Warrior's soul.  My heart pounds for the tale of her courage, my voice wants to cry out for the pain and wounds she's suffered.  I wish to stand by her side, helping her hold up her banner with pride... but I am struck down with grief for how much the battle has broken her down...
I am the mother hearing her child cry... her pain screams to me and my mother's heart rises to try and soothe that heart-wrenching pain.  I understand that she has been so hurt, beaten, and abused time and time again and that her rage and acts of violence are the only things she feels she has left.  I understand that she feels the only way to get people's attention is to threaten, to scream, to shame, to attack others.  I also understand why.  Come back, child of the Goddess - there truly *is* love here for you...
I am the Priestess and the Queen who sees an injustice before me. No human should endure such things as to be left with only rage and violence.  I vow to work towards making things right...

I cried in silence when Astrid stormed out.  Though I may have my own feelings about her attack upon me, the pain that she'd never heal from was a heartbreaking concept to me. 

I stopped to talk with a few folks after the session ended.  Some I connected with so that we could continue a dialog.  Some connected with me to tell me they thought I was brave for being there.  Some wanted to offer a hug of support after what I'd just gone through.  I appreciated the connections being made.

It should be noted that after the discussion ended, I tried to speak to the woman who had earlier related her story of nearly having her neck broken and directed her issues with Yeshe Rabbit at me in her stead.  I really did not understand how the experience she related had anything to do with the subject we were there to discuss.  I walked up to her with caution (from what I could tell, she was calmly chatting with another person in the room) but before I could even say a word, she began to wave her hands in my face and yelled repeatedly at me, "NO NOT RIGHT NOW!" I was very taken aback by this as I had only wanted to ask her name.  Generally, I don't take very kindly to people who are both shouting AND waving their hands in my face but it seemed to be my time to face some very challenging situations so I did not engage her any further.  She stormed out of the room.

A few minutes later, she returned and came up to me to speak with me.  She started with telling me her rude behavior of a few minutes before was an appropriate reaction from her as she was being called upon to deal with a "child emergency".  As she put it, her being so rude was the only way she felt she could prevent me from delaying her in handling that emergency.  However, I was not going to tolerate her treatment of me - it was NOT ok no matter her justifications.  I managed to tell her, "I'm sorry that this thing happened to you. However, your anger being directed at me like that was inappropriate and I don't appreciate your attack."  I was not, sadly, surprised that she would not apologize to me but chose to justify and stand by her actions.  She seemed to get very angry with me that I would not engage in her personal drama with Yeshe Rabbit.   I simply walked away from her at that point.  I certainly was not going to continue by telling her that I felt her setting an example that it was ok to break the magical agreements of the space, to be disrespectful to others and to directly attack them in what was supposed to be a "safe" magical space - was 100% wrong and left me with no respect for her. After someone fully admits to you that they have an issue and they further acknowledge that they have no intention of dealing with it directly (as she did during part of our exchange), what else can you do?

When I spoke with Sarah afterwards, I thanked her for facilitating and noted that I could have hoped for a different ending, but that hope for a different ending to the session didn't make any less real the pain and anger Astrid so obviously felt. Sarah responded by saying (and I'm paraphrasing as I cannot recall her exact phrasing) that she felt it was a good thing that this happened.  I wasn't really sure how to respond to that, at first, as my mind came up with many interpretations of her words.  Before jumping to conclusions, however, I resolved to take the time to think further on my reaction to what she'd just said.

I left the session, shaking and in tears.  Thank the Goddess for Jenn - she, also a Warrior, calmly and quietly stayed by my side, offering love and support the whole way as we made our way back to our coven's gathering place.  Thank the Goddess for my Coven - they took very good care of me that afternoon when I needed it most.

The Protest

There was a silent protest that was planned to happen during Z. Budapest's self blessing ritual on Sunday evening.  I can't say that it wasn't expected - the incendiary language Z used in the program listing (ai ya! "genetic women only"!) would be enough to set off WWIII in some places. 

I, personally, believe that an event like Pantheacon has the right to decide what kinds of rituals and other sessions are offered and that those sessions can be exclusionary in nature (men only, women only, non-menstruating only, gay only. etc).  I know that there are many who come to Pantheacon for offerings specifically like that as it is the only time they may have opportunity to be in that space.  I don't believe, however, that any of those offerings have the right to use discriminatory language (as Z's description of her ritual did).  I really think that given the nature of the conflict that arose from last year, those folks who were putting out printed material (Pantheacon folks and presenters alike) should have been more careful to proofread what would be seen by the eyes of thousands.  Further, though I do believe that there is a place for rituals at public events where those rituals have specific "entrance" requirements, I also believe that we can all come together in the same ritual space at the same public event.

As the ritual team was getting ready for The Rite of the Bear Mother, Yeshe Rabbit and Devin Hunter (the visionaries who put this ritual together) gathered up members of the Living Temple of Diana as well as the Amazon Priestesses and we all walked to the other side of the hotel where Z's ritual was to take place.  I, personally, had a very hard time going to the protest, even as a witness to the events that unfolded there because of what I'd experienced earlier in the day.  Though it was made clear that I was not required to go, I decided that I would continue on the path of "Witness" that I'd started earlier in the day.

We stood together, at the end of the hallway, between the silent protesters and the ritual doors.  I think that there was some fear that the moment Z came into view, the silent protest would no longer be silent (or at least that was the impression I got from the tense energy in that space).  Yeshe Rabbit started us with singing, "We All Come From The Goddess", followed by singing Thorn Coyle's song, "Divine Twins".  We repeated these two songs, back and forth, hoping to add to and maintain the peace in that tight space.  

I went with my brothers and sisters from the Living Temple of Diana, the CAYA Grove of Artemis, and the Amazon Priestess Tribe, whose intention it was to stand in the space between.  I sang for love and peace.  I sang for respect.  I sang for those who wanted/needed to attend the ritual but felt shamed away.  I sang for weapons to be laid down.  I sang for the ability of both sides to be able to listen with open ears and hearts to one another.  I sang for Z for showing the courage to come to the table, finally, with an apology (albeit an awkward and very rough one).  I sang for those who sat in protest.  I sang for healing to begin.

I listened to Z's rough, awkward, and sometimes painful apology.  I know that it doesn't come anywhere close to easing or erasing some of the more discriminatory language she's used in the past.  But, it WAS a start.  I don't know how she'll continue to react or what else she'll have to say on the matter but in that moment, Z really was trying.  Some day, perhaps, folks will see that. But I can also understand why there are many who will never give her that benefit of the doubt.  Afterall, if I were personally struggling with accepting her apology (and I have a lot of respect for her work) even when it was nowhere near enough, there were surely others who would not only say it wasn't enough but that nothing from her would have come close to making things ok.  In any case, she did try and that is important.

When Z had finished speaking, our ritual team continued to sing as we left the hallway and hurried to make our way back to our own ritual that was waiting for us to return so that it could start.

Rite of the Bear Mother
We are strong.  We are whole.  We are one.  We can move forward together for the betterment of all.

I enter the room, one of the Wards for the night.
Holy Sovereign Huntress Diana, Diana! Mother, come to us!
I hear the drums calling.

Holy Virgin Huntress Artemis, Artemis! Maiden, come to us!

I feel the power begin to flow.
Lend me your arrow, Lady of the Wildwood...Charge my intentions, my aim is pure and true...

I walked into the Rite of the Bear Mother feeling exactly as the Bear Mother - wounded, scarred, fiercely protective towards my family and loved ones, wanting my roar to drown out hatred and pain and pave the way for love and peace. I came out of it fired up with the energies that 300+ people put towards a healing that was necessary.  I poured myself into protecting the work we were doing.  My heart wept with joy at the beauty that came into that room.  I watched my brothers, sisters, and kindred as they danced, sang, as they were caught up in the ecstacy and as they felt healing.  The two verses of the song ("Stonehenge", by Kelliana) combined into one verse, danced fiercely with the beats of my drum, and reverberated through our working...

Mother Help me / I'm gonna break
Mother Heal me / these chains that bind
Please release me / I'm gonna break
From all things worldly / these chains that bind
That do not serve me / I'm gonna break, break!
Mother Love me / these chains that bind

Yes I will break these chains that bind!
We can break free from old values, old mindsets and still be powerful and whole.  We can recover from mistakes and make things better than before.  We can reach across the divide, to those different than ourselves, take their hands and become a stronger people.  We CAN change ... and we do.

After the ritual concluded and a "Hella Sacred!" moment was had between the LToD and GoA, I had opportunity to speak to a woman who seemed to have her mind changed about the Amazons.  The Amazons had just done what people condemned them for not doing - ritual with everyone where all were welcome.  Perhaps the Amazons weren't such a bad group afterall. 

To say that I had much to process is an understatement.  Did all of this need to happen today?  Did I need to be the one who all that rage was directed at earlier?  Why was I the one who had to take this?  Perhaps if it had been someone else - would things have been different in a more positive (or negative) way?  Was there a place for me to be present with all of my feelings, including the anger, or was I to deny that anger like I was denied the ability to defend myself?  Would I never be "right with the world", a world who judged and condemned me and my Tribe even though, not even an hour before I and many other Amazons had JUST welcomed a trans sister with open (and naked!) arms?

"Grace does not respond with anger." - Yeshe Rabbit.

My Brothers, Captain Jack of Bears and Doktor Kian Drakos, helped to put things into perspective for me on Sunday evening as I was processing the day's events.  It was necessary to have a Warrior be in that space, during that time.  It was necessary that it was I, the combination of an Amazon, a Warrior, a High Priestess, a Queen - be the one who withstood these attacks.  I was the tool of the Goddess then - being able to maintain a cool head, to hear the messages in all those instances and then take them home.  I was the shield who could take the fires and transmute it into love.  I could stand there and take the onslaught with grace and poise, I could keep my ears and heart open while listening to it all, and I would be the one who would choose to act with a mouth held closed in compassion rather than react with a mouth spewing vitriol into the mix.  I needed to be there on the path to come full circle - from the Rite of Lilith to the Rite of the Bear Mother and all the stops that had to be made in between both rituals. I had to be the Grace that did not respond in anger to what was going on.

Did I attend the discussion on Gender and Transgender in Paganism to receive forgiveness? I'll be honest that my first reaction to being offered forgiveness was not along charitable lines.  However, that was only because I didn't understand, right away, what was happening and I was feeling my own internal pressure to not embarrass myself by mis-stepping or mis-speaking in front of a room full of strangers.  That said, there were reasons that I attended this discussion that went beyond just being there to listen.  Perhaps, in some way, I was seeking forgiveness as I was heavily involved in the energies of last year's Rite of Lilith that triggered this wave of change.  Perhaps Sarah needed to offer me, a representative of the Amazon Tribe, forgiveness for what hurt she may have personally suffered because of our miscommunication.  Or perhaps the forgiveness enactment was necessary to be modeled to the rest of the room so that the energy of things could move in a forward direction rather than stagnate on discussions of last year starting in, "what had happened was..." In any case, it was forgiveness that needed to happen.

I was attacked twice that afternoon during the discussion.  Once by a woman whose issues had nothing to do with the actual issues we were all there to discuss.  Once by a woman who truly, yet falsely, believed she had been wronged by me and mine.  Both left me feeling angry but in different ways.  The latter left me feeling violated and heartbroken at the same time.  I thought about what Sarah had said - [that it was good that it happened].  I don't agree that it was a good thing I was attacked (and I don't think, at all, that Sarah meant that).  However, I do agree that it was a good thing that people in that room got a glimpse of what kind of toll that years of violence, hatred, and anger can turn a person into.  Also, I agree that it was a good thing that someone like me, able to withstand all of that being directed at their own self, was the target of Astrid's rage - it could have had an entirely different outcome if someone else were in my shoes.  Still, I don't agree that it was a good thing to allow Astrid to continue her attack once she violated appropriate boundaries around physical violence in that space.

I will never forget the others, Astrid, but perhaps not how you intended your words to mean.  I will never forget the ugliness that humanity can create - it gives me a much deeper appreciation for the beauty that humanity can create.  I will never forget what working together "in love and unity" feels like and I will carry that feeling into all my workings.  I will never forget what it felt like to be assaulted in those moments but I have already, "decided to love anyway".


  1. I slip my hand into yours Amazon High Priestess Salamangkero Yansumi, soft and warm and full of love and admiration for my sister.

    1. dear yansumi, thank you very much for sharing all that. I needed to hear it. No wonder the energy felt so strange and troubled my spirit so much as I walked the spiritual/moral gauntlet towards Z's ritual. I am glad to know you as an amazon/hps/warrior who channels the Goddess with beauty of of voice, an open heart, open mind, and open arms. knowing you gives me courage; this story gives me pause to ponder again on Pcon 2012, from a safer, less emotional time and space.
      blessed be indeed.

  2. Beautiful and moving. I think hearing your perspective is particularly important as we are discussing these mysteries. I support their need 100% though we have many asking "why?" I also believe that this is because settings have not been available to many in the pagan movement essentially causing a low interaction with trained priestesses. There is a lot of confusion and ignorance right now. We need voices like this to ring true and clear in the world.

    You are awesome.


  3. This is such a powerful and passionate account. I am moved by your words, and the strength of your heart.

  4. Thank you on behalf of my trans sisters for your beautiful and powerful words. All I can say about the behaviour of my sisters is that you have to be strong, very strong, to not turn into a bitter angry person as a transwoman. The feelings you had of anger, violation and heartbreak are the feelings I have everytime actions or rituals take place that invalidate my core identity. And they happen all the time. I couldn't be at Pantheacon ( I live on another continent) but to be frank I wouldn't have been there. It would not have been safe space for me, not with many people there who still consider me to be a castrated man. (That would be second wave feminists including Zen Budapest). I get that there can be rituals for specific people, people with a uterus (not even my 'genetic female' partner would qualify lol) but that's not what they mean, they mean you can't come because to us you are men. That is second wave feminist philosophy, one I think that is mired in some kind of horrible (to me) 70's timewarp. And that's the bit that is so painful to the trans community. The invalidation of their core identity. The part that really hurts me the most is my guide, my muse and my protector is Artemis. So much hurt being delivered in her name I could cry. So thankyou again, for so respectfully openly and lovingly describing your experiences. I apologise for the poor behavior of my sisters, for poor behaviour it was.
    Blessed Be

  5. Absolutely amazing testimony. Thank you.

  6. I just keep reading this and crying, Q'desha. You are an amazing HPS. I would say that I am proud of you, but that would be claiming you and you are your own. My beloved sister, I am proud to stand at your side.


    I love you.

  7. A line just went through my head:

    "I don't know the answer - I just know it's not what we're doing *now*."

  8. You have always been strong and beautiful to the core. I am honored that we remain sisters of heart and I honor you for the work you did here. I love you sweet friend, fierce warrior and wise priestess.

  9. Thank you for sharing your truth so eloquently. Your compassion, your courage, and your transformative power inspire me to follow in that spirit.

    Much love, Jaina Bee