A worldview, that is.
So while on the prowl around the interwebs for material to blog about, I came across a link through a blog from a blog from a something or other and…oh, I have no idea how I found it, but I did: an open letter to the Goddess Temple of Orange County, California regarding a talk that was given there that elicited no small amount of emotion regarding the message that was given.
What followed in the comments of that blog post was nothing short of a marvel that I, as a Christian of a peculiarly evangelical flavor, could not help but find intriguing. At the heart of the matter (or womb of the matter, in this case) was the status of transsexual women, and what the Goddess Temple said about them. This triggered a small firestorm usually reserved for evangelicals, comparing them to segregationists, racists, bigots, and the like; but unlike evangelicals, everyone was tripping over themselves to affirm that everyone has their own truth and that reality is what we make it.
But this seemed…odd. It’s a Twilight Zone-esque reversal; the pagans are the ones on the defense, instead of the usual suspects. The discussion even followed the usual sequence: accusations of bigotry, appeals to relativism, accusations of money- and power-grubbing, more appeals to relativism, and finally an appeal to “why can’t we all just get along.”
So let’s look at some of the particular claims, by the blogger, the Presiding Priestess Ava of the Goddess Temple, and the various other commenters.
From the post itself:
The message today, that transwomen are less than women, that they’ve been violated and mutilated and deny the truth of who they are, is hurtful. It was like a blow to my face. In the Temple space, I felt safe and honored, and this was a violation of trust. It was a vulnerable time for participants, and you used that time to insert a painful topic when a group dialogue outside the safe space of Temple would have been more appropriate.
[…] I am a magickal person, and I shape my reality and defend it in accord with my will. Transgendered people, men AND women, CHOOSE to shape their bodies in accordance with their will.
[…] We shape our own reality. We hold the world in our hands. We can make it better.
I think the writer did an otherwise good job of setting out her grievance against the Goddess Temple for things she found grievous. Well, the Presiding Priestess of the Goddess Temple took it upon herself to respond, and respond she did:
It is an intrinsic part of my thealogy that those I define as “women” are those bearing wombs. I honor all beings as they were created and think that we should have many more genders in America than just “male” and “female.” This would accurately reflect reality rather than what is happening now.
Say what? She defends her stance when someone else objects, and claims that according to that view, a woman who had undergone a hysterectomy would be ‘less than a woman.” She responds:
Having a womb removed due to surgery is like having any other body part surgically removed. Because humans can be defined as “bi-pedal” does not mean if you lose your leg in an accident that you are no longer human. If you were born with a womb and had it removed due to surgery, you are still a woman by our definition.
At this point I realized I was seeing something that I’ve never seen before: a pagan sexual teleology…and one that bore no small resemblance, if only in appearance, to a classical theistic view of sexuality, if for a completely different purpose–one of magic. But it didn’t go in that direction:
For your sister who was born with ovaries and fallopian tubes but no uterus, I would have to have more information before I can comment. Perhaps this is similar to a human being born without legs …. a variation on the common form. Still human, of course. A human born without a womb? Perhaps a similar variation … and if there were a large percentage of such humans born … perhaps their own gender should be defined, acknowledged and celebrated! As I repeatedly say, American culture is wrong to jam people into two genders only.
Ironically she contradicts her own earlier statement about what makes us human; I would simply contend that it extends to sexuality as well; those born with incomplete genitalia, or those whose privates go through a privation (ok, I really couldn’t help it there) are still male or female; we are not less than either male or female any more than we are less than human if we’re missing things. Of course all of this gets to the ‘essential-versus-accidental’ properties of what makes us human, and sexuality is included in that. But on we go. Ava tries her best to explain why it’s important that transsexual women need to find their own house of worship:
When I as Presiding Priestess ask all in circle to “place their hands on their wombs,” energetically, there needs to be a physical or etheric womb there in order to do so, otherwise it doesn’t make sense … it doesn’t acknowledge reality.
“Acknowledge reality?” All bets are off when every last participant in the discussion harangues each other with “we create our own reality.” Acknowledge whose reality, exactly? (How about mine?) Either you create reality or you acknowledge it. The only thing between these two options is an awful lot of irony.
But the reason for needing to have been born with a womb is because it’s needed for the energies it provides for the service. And I found this interesting, because it seems like within her worldview she has a point, a certain consistency, and she sticks by her guns when it comes to trying to defend it, but it still falls apart at the “create your own reality” song and dance. The greater questions, about the nature of truth, the nature of humanity, and (most of all) the question of the existence and nature of God have yet to be asked, much less answered (though something about Patriarchy gets brought up at this point; helloooooo genetic fallacy!).
The essential question is: are we entitled to hold meetings of any kind, and say “only one type of human is permitted at this meeting?” If you say “no, everyone should be able to come to any meeting at The Temple at any time for any reason,–no discrimination!” then you would have to disagree with our right to “woman only” space, regardless of how you defined “woman.” If you say “yes, The Temple should be able to hold meetings for like groups of people as those groups define themselves and as they choose to meet,” then logically you would have to agree that we are also entitled to choose to have a type of meeting that is for “womb bearing humans” only.
Really. Why does all of this sound so familiar? Did I fall into some alternate reality?
And the irony of her defense was certainly not lost on her opponents.
At this point the conversation took a somewhat sensationalistic turn accusing the Goddess Temple in general, and Ava in particular, of heinous character flaws and such that are outside the scope of this post. However, before the dust settled (and it hasn’t completely settled, that’s for sure), this comment showed up from another reader. This was directed at poor Ava.
You have every right to worship as you please. You have every right to define “women” as you please. Your definitions and rules are close-minded, bigoted, and offend me. I have a right to say that. Since it seems to matter to you, I will point out that I am a women, was born in this gender, and am gloriously happy to be a woman. However, I will defend until my last breath the right of others to decide for themselves who they are and how they want to present themselves. I got handed this body and this perception of self from the Universe and so did every other person, trans or not, cis or not, whole or changed, male or female or neither or both, AND YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO DECIDE WHETHER THEY ARE RIGHT OR WRONG, NOT FOR ANYONE OTHER THAN YOURSELF.
Surely I am not the only one that noticed that she was more than confident about telling Ava how wrong she was, while saying (in caps-lock, no less) that no one can decide what’s right or wrong for anyone else.
What a trainwreck of worldviews. In light of all of this, Jesus’ invitation to “take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” looks more inviting than ever.
By all means, appeal to reality. That’s how we find truth. But the laws of logic don’t stop at the doorstep of spirituality. Or wombs, for that matter.