Gender Trouble Again: Pantheacon 2012

It’s unfortunate on so many levels that what happened in one corner of PantheaCon last weekend threatens to overwhelm all else (and I am so glad that I was pretty much unaware of this until the end of the Con as I was able to enjoy so many positive things there)—but it’s one of those things that can’t be avoided at this point, especially when I see many people have come here to read about my post on last year’s CAYA exclusionary incident. So Identity Politics reared its most hideous head, and people got hurt once again*. The Dianics remind me of the white mother in the famous story “Everything That Rises Must Converge”, for any Flannery O’Conner fans out there. Some women are not women, they keep protesting, and they believe they get to define the others in or out of the circle or the club, as the case may be–although, I’ve been happy to see in online forums that not all Dianics hold these hateful views. The world has changed, the essentialist view of gender is seen for the fraud that it is. An interesting part of this whole thing is how mystical primal ritual is being mixed with the language of science—I’m speaking of the term genetic. To refer to other humans solely by their genetic traits is, to say the least, dehumanizing. Stripping a person down to biology. Stripping them naked and casting them aside is really a violent act of boundary control. Such reduction of humans to biological data occurred famously in Nazi German (and I hold my rhetoric is quite justified in this analogy), and also in Japanese occupied China in the 1940’s; such a reduction then allows the stripping away of the individual life, so they can be repurposed as some other material, perhaps to make some thing. In less extreme form this can also be like the experience of many patients caught up in our dehumanizing system of industrial medicine, where doctors are not interested in the human person sitting before them, but only in the data about their blood appearing pixillated on their screen and the various classification/diagnostic systems they are reduced to. Bizarrely, these Dianics are dong it to themselves in this case, as well as to the excluded trans-women at PantheaCon who are said to not have this genetic material.

I know some are calling this a case of the need for better wording in the program guide, but I think it is more than that, for if women or men are to be divided up into the cisgendered and the trans, then the transgendered are still being subtly demoted as being secondary class. The point is gender is performed; it is not essential. This reminds me of people saying they prefer to say they are following pre-Christian traditions rather than pagan, but the term itself then grounds Christianity as being the focal point.

Some might say what business is this of mine, but as a gender variant male, quuerly minded, I find that it cuts close enough. How horrid I felt in spiritual workshops and rites I have attended (in the past) where the facilitator told the men to go to one side of the room and the women to the other. How often as a little boy I was attacked by bully boys because my friends were girls and my play was ‘girlie’ stuff. I will just say at this juncture macho little boys are quite inventive at the vicious things they will do. The policing of gender is a cruel and violent business, and our trans sestren are on the firing line. And once again pain was inflicted at an event I feel strongly should be welcoming to people of all genders, sexualities, races, ethnicities, nationalities, and socioeconomic classes.

Borghese Hermaphroditus at Louvre

Over the years I’ve heard so many people who have been hurt by the attitudes so blatantly displayed by that Dianic elder, including a young mother who was unable to bring her (male) baby into a Dianic house, and a woman I knew who worked at the Artemis Café and Bookstore on the once-lesbian stretch of Valencia Street, San Francisco who once finding herself without a childcare option, tried to bring her little boy to work, and was forbidden to do so, harshly shamed, and left with a very difficult emergency. And this is to not even get into the discourses on how white this whole attitude to gender is, and how many women of color (bell hooks, Gloria Anzaldua, Adele Olivia Gladwell, and Haunani Kay Trask immediately jump to mind) have written cogently about how they were made to feel like they weren’t woman enough to fit in this rigid system often known as 70s essentialist (United States) white feminism.  The truth remains so many of us are still told we are not ‘man enough’, not ‘woman enough’.

Men, Anatolian Moon God

I also think the whole issue prompts thinking about Pantheacon in a greater context. The ‘Con is eighteen years old now and has grown from being a relatively small event with an anything goes atmosphere to a huge public gathering of many kinds of people. The hotel as well as law prohibit certain behavior already. “Drugs’ which can be valid sacraments for some groups are prohibited. There is no nudity in public areas including the pool. This, of course, is a restriction of some people’s spiritual practice. It’s not really a mater of law, as a friend thought, but of hotel policy—after all there are plenty of small hotels and resorts in California, which have clothing optional policies. I’m bringing up these two examples to show that there are practices, which people already have to forgo at the Con. Others come to mind—I’m sure sacrifice of a chicken would fall into that category also, even if some traditions like Santeria do have such in their practices. So I think it is past time to forgo exclusionary rituals as well. PantheaCon is a gigantic event held at a public hotel, and people purchase entry (and expect that it is open admission) to attend the many workshops, rituals and panels offered. It is not the place for ritual for ‘this type of person but not that type’, or for secret initiations to be attended only by people of ‘this grade but not that grade’. I question if it is an appropriate space for holding deep therapy sessions as well, as some exclusionary rites are purported to be.  I personally don’t see a problem if hospitality suites want to hold such rites (I might heartily dislike their parameters but that obviously is not for me to decide in the sense of something private, and for the record I do see that exclusionary rites have their place, but not in the public space of PantheaCon). After all at public events you don’t get to have a guest list, at private parties you do.

I imagine changing policy will be a difficult process, an uphill journey, but hopefully it will eventually happen and the PantheaCon will become friendly to all who want to attend. I pray so. Our religions deserve it.

* I’m heartened by the reports of the positive protest held by T. Thorn Coyle. A good, calm reportage can be found at Teo Bishop’s blog—and if you haven’t read Thorn’s own reports I think they are crucial to understanding what went on:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/bishopinthegrove/

http://www.thorncoyle.com/

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2 thoughts on “Gender Trouble Again: Pantheacon 2012

  1. I’m glad that there were good things for attendees and it stinks that this is, again, the thing that it gets noted for. Being on the other side of the country this is what I’ve heard about. I was surprised, I thought that the message that bigotry was not appropriate had been heard by the organizers, I didn’t think that they’d have allowed an exclusive ritual to be part of the program.

    I think you get to the heart of it here. I might be disgusted by Budapest’s hatred of transwomen or her bizarre “genetic women” thing, but if she wants to do ciswomen-only stuff in private space I feel that’s her business. But exclusive rituals at a public event, an event which should be about sharing, is not appropriate. Even more so when it is exclusion based on a prejudicial concept, of someone deciding they get to define how others ARE, as opposed to something being, say, initiate only. I don’t think that the latter is appropriate either, but when someone is publicly hateful towards others it takes it to another level.

    1. I so agree that the hate aspect takes it to another level, and that the theme was “Unity In Diversity’ this year really rubbed salt into the wound.

      Well, I hope to put some stuff up about positive things from the ‘con in the next day or so.

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