Gender Exclusivity at Pantheacon - 2012 Edition

Maybe this was supposed to be irony?
There are a lot of people very upset at one particular event that went on at Pantheacon this year. For the second year in a row - from the information I've seen - an event has been put on for 'Women Only' that has denied access to transgendered women. Some information on this year's and last year's issues can be found here and here. Also, this is the CAYA coven's official response regarding last year's gender exclusion.

For a quick breakdown - all coming from third-party sources, as I am not actually at Pantheacon this year (only one pagan vacation per year, and PPSM3 is mine) - what you need to know is this: This year, allegedly, Z. Budapest held a ritual for genetic women only. I'm not sure - because I've read conflicting reports - as to whether transgender women attempted to get in and were turned away or whether it is causing an uproar because transgender women are barred generally. Either way, for the second year in a row, the only thing anyone will remember about Pantheacon is this story.

UPDATE: Lupa, who was actually there, has given a recounting of the goings-on here. Apparently, no transgender women attempted to enter the event. Likewise, none were allowed in due to the exclusion of "Genetic Women Only." The Pagan Newswire Collective and T. Thorn Coyle - who organized a silent protest outside the event - have posted their accounts, which can be followed via the links provided. Either way... this is...


Now, this is a new year and a new Riot. Normally, you'd probably expect me to thrust a pitchfork in the direction of Z. Budapest or throw a torch on the Pantheacon organizers for having this be an issue 2 years in a row. I'm not going to do that today. For one thing, I am not at Pantheacon, and I could be getting incorrect third party information - the internet is lovely that way. For another, I think there is a greater discussion to be had. To touch on these points, specifically, for a moment, however:

  • It's Z. Budapest. She does this kind of thing. It's like being mad at Christian Day for going on TV. It's his thing. Would I do it? No. Am I surprised in the least that Z., given the opportunity, did this? Absolutely not.
  • Should the organizers at Pantheacon force inclusivity and bar exclusivity? Well.... That's the greater conversation I think needs to be had. 
Here goes...

If you want to have a coven filled with cisgender black women that were born in the moon sign of Virgo and the sun sign of Leo on a Tuesday before the year 1997, you are more than welcome to do that. Have at it. I hope that you find spiritual fulfillment with the group of your choosing. If you want to have a pagan meet-up filled with people who are only pagan parents - meaning that you cannot attend if you have never had children - then, by all means, do it. It is absolutely your prerogative in your personal life to find a group of people where you feel that you belong. It is your private life. It is your choice, and nobody should fault you for it. I may think your decision or group is odd, but you might think it's odd that I spend at least 3 hours a week reading comic books. 

We're all weird. 

Also, I think it is absolutely your prerogative to hold a ritual for gay men only or straight women only or white men or asian lesbians or bottle blonde men under 5' 10". As long as it is clearly posted so that those folks seeing your ritual posting know whether they can attend. Again, it's your life and your event. You can hold it for whomever you wish. 

Just so we're clear: I believe in your personal life, you can surround yourself with whatever group you feel fits you best. Don't be ashamed of it. Own it. If other people have a problem with it, it's their confusion, their problem. Private. Life.

However, unless we're living in a society of hermits, you have to be in public at some point. In fact, you have to be in public often. And, the funny thing about community is that it is, inherently, about the public. 

Also, funny thing.... Cons. Steampunk Con. ComicCon. Leather Ball. Whatever. Conventions are public forums where we can let a particular freak flag fly. Publicly. We pay money. We travel from all over the world. We wear costumes and discuss the things we love with people that understand, because in our regular 9 to 5 lives we rarely find people that understand. Conventions, at least the ones I've been to, are about making us feel included, accepted, in the little niches of society that we want to be part of. It's a type of validation, in a way, to know that you're not the only one. To know there are hundreds, thousands, of people that think you're not weird. That think you're actually pretty awesome just the way you are.

There's also something about hosting a public event, that people paid to attend, and not discriminating against those people that paid to attend. To bring this back to Pantheacon... I get that this is a religious convention. I get that, by its very nature, people are being forced to put their incredibly private relationship with divinity on display for a bunch of people they've never met. I get that it can be a bit difficult or strange or odd to put yourself out there.........

But isn't that the point of a Con?

To go and be a freak with the rest of the freaks? 

Isn't that what people paid their money and got a hotel room a year in advance and traveled from around the country to do? To feel included? I mean...correct me if I'm wrong, but this is not a private event. This isn't at someone's house or at a covenstead. It's a public event. There are organizers and advertisers and people selling goods. According to the event's website, over 2000 people attend this event. The theme this year is Unity in Diversity (which is probably a callback from last year's debacle). 

In that kind of environment - in my opinion - your ability to discriminate is eliminated. Your right to discriminate ends at someone else's right not to be discriminated against. This is the public sphere, the public sector, and different rules apply. 

We do not have whites only lunch counters or 'colored' restrooms or gender-specific jobs anymore. These fights have come and been won. We have had to scrape and claw and fight for our rights, because nobody seems willing to say 'Hey, we're all the same.' Gay people can serve openly in the military. Women can vote. It's 2012. Why is this a conversation we're having? 

I firmly, fully, and completely support your right to fill your personal circle, coven, group, whatever with the kind of people you desire. It's your life. It's your personal life. If you're going to have a public event, especially an event of this size and caliber, then you don't get to discriminate. And, honestly, I believe that there are actual legal issues here that could be addressed should someone have the resources to lodge such a complaint. The organizers of this event have a lot on their plates, I'm sure. 

I'm positive that they're doing the best they know how, and that there are factors here I'm not privy to and that I have facts missing. And, I think that they're trying to walk the line between allowing the various presenters to have an event done his or her way while also running an inclusive event.

I've seen the argument that, hey, there should be the option for a cisgender-only event as long as it's clearly marked and advertised as such. I've seen arguments saying that the rights of Z. Budapest and her flavor of Dianic Wicca are being violated by folks attempting to force inclusiveness of individuals she is not comfortable with in her event. Basically, I've seen several people make the claim that If she wants to be a bigot, that's ok, as long as she follows these Rules of Being A Bigot in Public. I think when you're talking about 'Unity in Diversity', and you codify how and when someone can be a bigot, you've already lost your own argument.

And, yes, at other Conventions there are all sorts of events that, by their nature, exclude others. At a gaming convention, there might be a panel on the latest Zelda game, which sort of excludes folks that want to discuss the latest Halo installment. But, there's a difference in limiting one class or another to a set of knowledge (such as Hey, let's talk about Zelda!) and limiting who can learn that knowledge (such as Hey, if you play Halo, you can't come to this event!). Maybe both sides of the issue could learn something if we were put into one room and given the opportunity to grow.

At Pantheacon this year, CAYA coven (the one at the heart of last year's transgender-denying debacle) hosted a 'self-identified women only' event. There were men-only events. But, does the offering of an alternative event fix the problem? I'm sorry...but that sounds like 'Separate But Equal' to me. You aren't allowed to attend this event, but we'll set this other event up over another room...away from a different time...with different people. See how that's the same thing? You're totally included! 

In this Rioter's opinion, there is no room for exclusivity at a public, paid for, sponsored (with advertisements, etc.) Convention. These are supposed to be places of safety for small communities, and these types of actions only serve to further separate and divide an already small community.

What do YOU think? Does it being a public event matter? Should the fact that it's a religious type of event matter? Should we get to have our personal discriminations and exclusions accommodated in a venue such as Pantheacon?

And, before you answer, consider this: It's one thing for someone to be racist in their own home. It is a completely different thing to disallow people, because of race, from eating at your restaurant, going to your church, receiving a scholarship, or attending a school. 

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte


  1. I don't think it being a religious event matters. It's still a public event, and discrimination is unacceptable, for all the reasons you outlined. If your religious beliefs demand exclusion...then don't take it public. No open circles. That simple.

    Of course, my personal solution here is pretty much the same as any public event or service that discriminates. I'm not going, ever. They can play their game with someone else's money.

    Thanks for addressing the difference between public and private, though. It needs to be said!

    1. Hey M! Just updated the article. I think you'll be pleased with the additions. A few paragraphs towards the end outlining arguments against this idea and my responses to them. Also, a Separate But Equal argument that really irked me about other discussions around the blogosphere.

      Take a read.


    2. Where's the 'like' button when you need one? I'm swiping the Zelda/Halo example next time I get into this argument! :)

  2. It saddens and upsets me to see this kind of behavior going on in our community. I expect better from my fellow Pagans and discrimination of any kind is not okay in my opinion. Just because I'm a girl and a Pagan and I worship a female deity does not mean that I'm a man hater of any kind and I get the vibe from Z. Budapest that she is one of those women that thinks all boys are icky and bad and I don't feel that that is a healthy approach to viewing people. Because in the end that is what we all are: people. And I think as people we should support our fellow human beings and not spread any more ugliness and hate around the world because there is too much of it floating around. I pray that the people involved in this find the heart to change and give these women a chance, whether or not they were born genetic women or not. The gods don't make mistakes and these women are beautiful and sacred like any other woman in this world (and men!).

  3. "For a quick breakdown - all coming from third-party sources, as I am not actually at Pantheacon this year (only one pagan vacation per year, and PPSM3 is mine) - what you need to know is this: This year, allegedly, Z. Budapest held a ritual for genetic women only. I'm not sure - because I've read conflicting reports - as to whether transgender women attempted to get in and were turned away or whether it is causing an uproar because transgender women are barred generally."

    Several first hand contemporary reports all tell essentially the same story:

    No transgender women attempted to enter, nor were any allowed in.

    1. Included the links in the Update - 2/21. Thanks!


  4. it's odd, I would think that the organizers would have told Z, "Due to the negative publicity within the community last year, another exclusive ritual is not be in the best interests of the event this year. Thanks for your support, and we would be happy to include some other type of ritual if you wish to offer one."
    maybe I'm just nieve. Maybe the fact that she is a NAME from the good old days, means more than the content of her character.

  5. I am just now catching up on blogs and such and OMG! I had never heard of Pantheacon until a few months ago, and wanted to go but I really try to avoid drama so I may reconsider going next year. I saw a lot of people on FB referring to women and men having their own space but didn't realize they were talking about in a place of hate and prejudice.

    Transgender women are women in the only way that it matters in a religious context. Religion is all about who we are passed our skin and physical bodies and what happens to us when those things are long since dust. I could understand (but not necessarily agree with, it would depend) if they were having a medical discussion about parts that genetic women had and transgendered women didn't that the genetic women may be embarrassed to talk about in other company. In that context a transgender woman MAY not have anything to contribute or learn from anyway since they have never and will never have certain parts.

    This Z. Budapest person doesn't sound like a very good person. I have only heard her name once or twice but EVERY time it's always connected with something hateful. I think it's sad that this is the type of person that people seem to associate with a religious path that is similar to mine. Although mine doesn't include making other people feel like they don't belong.

    And I don't see how the fact that no transgender women tried to get in even remotely matters. Would you try to get into some place that made it very clear you were not welcome? I guess if you were Christian Day you might since the drama that would be created by it might get you on TV. Lol

  6. Honestly, I do "get" what Z. is trying to do. There are many women who have been victimized by men. To have someone who appears to have been a man in the past, or to have someone who identifies as female, but still has "boy bits" in a naked circle could be disturbing to some women who may have been victimized by men.

    But what I think is missed is this: The point of a healing circle is to find healing, to overcome our fears, and to be able to live successfully in society, among our peers. It is not only cis-gendered women who have been harmed by men.(and, at times, by other women)

    I think that Z. also misses another important point. While part of her healing circles focus on the way that many cis-gendered women have come to feel betrayed by their bodies - with many women having come to be viewed and used as simply sex-objects, she seems to think that trans-women don't go through the same feelings. She seems to think that we who are trans, have our surgery, and "we get what we want". Budapest considers trans-women to be men, simply bent on intruding in her space - in women's space. She does not seem to be willing to consider the possibility that anything other than genitalia and genetics have anything to do with who is, or isn't a woman.

    I began my training with a Dianic priestess. She knew me when I was still trying (and failing) to live my life as a man. And she actually asked me to study with her. This, quite frankly shocked me. We spoke recently about what happened at Pantheacon, and it's helped me to understand things a bit differently. One point that she made was especially poignant: How can a group claim to represent diversity in Paganism without allowing for a real Dianic ritual? If Budapest is to be true to herself, Dianic Wicca will exclude trans-women. If we attempt to force her to accept other than genetic females in a ritual, it is no longer a Dianic ritual.

    In my opinion, the only solution is to speak to the officials at Pantheacon, and for some of us to step up and organize a ritual open to all women who identify as women. This isn't to compete with Z., but to simply have a women's ritual that is open to all women.

  7. Just an aside, 2 men’s only seminars both open to anyone identifying as a man and 1 session in a hospitality room. Both were good, if at odd hard times for some to make, and I did not attend the Fairie event.
    On the subject at hand, consistency is important, if you allow ANY restricted events, you have to allow all, and you can't really complain about what those restrictions are. To me the greater point would be did Z’s ritual serve the needs of a portion of the community? If so then it should be at a con representing all pagans. I think T. Thorn had it right (my paraphrase)” I am protesting the words and actions by this leader, not the idea and I will take my stand and allow you to take yours”. (Apologies to T. Thorn Coyle if I read too much and not what you meant to say into your blog post). This also shines a light on those practices we may find wrong, if we chase them from the public square, they can never be examined and will grow stronger in the persecuted dark. This also leads to fragmentation in the community, if something you need, like etc. is disallowed at an event, you stop attending or participating and now become the other. This engenders hatred and suspicion of groups that should have a common cause.
    To answer the question, YES, restricted offerings have a place and function at gatherings of people. Many have spent a lot of bandwidth on the feelings of the transgendered, I also asked what about those to whom a gender female only circle is their comfort and healing, this maybe the only place some can get that.

    1. They absolutely have a place, and I'm not denying that. They have a place to make you feel included in your specific niche. What I'm proposing is that there is a difference in this scenario. This venue. This public, paid for convention.

      My solution, not that anybody is asking: no nudity - because it's a public event, and allow anyone that paid for their ticket to attend any event they like. There are male Dianics and there are women who identify with male deities. Let this type of gathering be a place of open conversation and dialogue.

      Also, about a gender female circle being someone's only source of comfort and healing: I do not disagree that a woman might be "triggered" (which is a word getting bandied about at the moment) by someone with a physical penis. What I am saying is that, if you want a skyclad, gender female only ritual group, the once yearly Pantheacon might not be the best way to get your fill of the divine.

      I feel for all sides, but this is a public stage. This is part of us growing as a community, both culturally and numerically. As we increase in numbers, we're going to have to get out of our comfort zones and realize that public conventions are not our own private spaces.

      Again, just my opinion.


    2. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the distinction is not on whether Z. Budapest - or anyone with a discriminatory class - should be banned. I'm not saying she shouldn't be allowed to practice how she sees fit.

      I'm saying that there is a difference between her private practice and this public venue. That is the discussion here. Not whether there is a place for a [insert codifier of choice here]-only circle/grove/hive/coven/meet up/whatever.

    3. And mine as well, Firelyte. I don't think anyone is suggesting they be "banished" in any way. I can understand if you want to have a ritual celebrating YOUR vagina (not as in mine but as in the one you brought with you lol) then it may not be the place for people without one. However, if you are having one to celebrate THE vagina anyone who can appreciate all that it means and symbolizes should be allowed to attend. This is especially true if you hold this ritual in a public place that the people who pay for tickets are the one's supporting it and the only reason it is there.

      I don't agree that we should start asking organizers to include rituals for just transgendered or just men or just anything else. Eventually the whole things would become "Go to your section and try to avoid the others". This type of thing doesn't really fit well with the whole Unity in Diversity thing. Although, now I wonder how the council (r whoever makes decisions for this thing) could have given the OK for this ritual to happen, and then say "let's have the tagline: Unity through Diversity" with a straight face (no pun intended).

    4. We are going to disagree, I would argue that because it is a public stage we need to allow exclusive events. I know my judgments are colored by an encounter my wife and I had at the end of the con. One of the Men’s seminars was at 11:00 on Monday, ie. Checkout time, and include at least 1 transgendered man and had no protest, but when I was speaking about it to my wife, a person had to interrupt us and rant how horrible it was that Pcon allowed a male only space and that paganism was about the goddess and men should not be allowed to have a men’s only space. This person was a participant in the ZB ritual and had been waxing poetic about it in line ahead of me. My last day on the Con, I just walked away shaking my head and while I will not let it go, I did not feel the need to engage in an argument I had no chance of even promoting a thought with. I support the con bringing in Z, with the clarity they had, there are women like the above, that need that sacred container and that’s what ritual and worship is about, the people that are doing it, not those that might want to do it. . I am a hoodoo man, root worker and could not go to the only hoodoo workshop, I still support the right to close it. Just to be clear, I believe while Pcon does not have an obligation to present any event, by producing a great variety they served the needs of their community.

      BTW, I was able to shre the Pagan Enough Project often in discussion, it fit in the subject of a few of the classes I went to. keep the work going

  8. Excellent post, I am also surprised that we're having this discussion in this day and age. There are ways to have this ritual w/o having to separate transfolk from non-transfolk. It's hard enough coming to terms with who you are in every other aspect of life, but then to have your very inclusive, very accepting religion say, OH wait, you can't bring those bits in here. Well that's just so very sad. Speaking as a SOFFA it's very empowering for our partners to finally feel like they're at home in their own skin. Having groups that accepted you both prior to transition and then see them slink away to the side after the transition is not only wrong, but completely heartbreaking. And I speak from experience here.

    I hope that there will be some way to resolve this so that both sides feel respected.

  9. "I think when you're talking about 'Unity in Diversity', and you codify how and when someone can be a bigot, you've already lost your own argument."

    File under "Bingo!"

    For at least three reasons, I must divorce myself from the content of this controversy; but, in formal terms, you've hit on one of the underlying causes: acceptance, as an organizing principle, is inherently self-refuting. Please note the emphasized phrase in the previous sentence. Acceptance is a desideratum, and arguably a virtue, but it becomes problematic if it is held as a core assumption.

    To illustrate: If acceptance is our organizing principle, how are we to deal with individuals or organizations that are not accepting in some material way? If we refuse to accept them, then we've contradicted ourselves; but if we accept them, then we are accepting non-acceptance, which is also a contradiction. Feel free to substitute tolerance for acceptance throughout.

    Again, divorcing myself from the content of this matter, I wonder what, if anything, has come forth from the organizing committee. Does anyone know? Having served on a conference committee or two, I believe that, if an event at a conference were to generate controversy, the wisest course of action would be for the committee, as a matter of urgency, to solicit input from the community regarding policy for dealing with such matters in the future. Preferably, such input would be in an open forum. Following this, and well in advance of the next conference, the committee, or the organization's executive, could formulate and publicize the relevant policy, together with the reasons underlying it.

    This having been done, proposals for possibly controversial events at future conferences could be dealt with in a transparent way. If they're rejected, the proponents could be told, "Sorry, but the proposed event is contrary to our policy, and here is the reason." If the proposal is accepted, an explanation for this decision, referencing the policy, could be included in the pre-conference material for the sake of transparency. Not a perfect approach by any means, but probably better than excessive reliance on finger-crossing and hoping for the best.

    YMMV, as the saying goes. Submitted FWIW.

  10. I think you've hit the nail on the head: It's a public event. If Z wants to have an elitist ritual, then have it elsewhere other than at PantheaCon. Advertise the ritual and have it off campus-no one is saying they can't do their thing.

    I find it truly offensive both for myself and the trans individuals who are friends that the organizers of PantheaCon continue to allow this event to occur under their umbrella. I am disappointed that we have to have this conversation in our community yet another year.

    PantheaCon has been on my personal bucket list- no longer. Bigotry and hatred is still bigotry and hatred.I seriously doubt that the goddess Diana cares who has what parts as long as they come to her authentically and humbly.

  11. Its so sad to me b/c I am sure these same Pagans put down Christians / Muslims for their subpar treatment of women but then turn around and do it to men and transg-women.

  12. After reading the post and the comments, it seems to me that a third year in a row of this kind of attitude from the organizers of the Pantheacon would equal suicide. A convention - whatever convention it is - it's normally open to anyone. I would say you don't need to actually be an otaku to go to an Animé Convention, nor really need to be Pagan to assist to a Pagan Convention. This might sound weird, but conventions are not only a safe place for the "freaks" as you put it, to live their freakiness, but it's also an open invitation for anyone interested in learning more about the subject. All that's demanded from the people going is to pay the fee (if there's a fee) and be respectful.

    Now, let's hold to that last word: respectful. If the audience is expected to be respectful, how come the hosts and the people holding the expositions are not? If you're circle or your topic or whatever is very exclusive, very secretive, why on Earth are you holding an exposition of it at a Convention? If you don't feel comfortable around a certain type of people - of which are many in the world, and likely to attend a Convention, why are you exposing that in a convention? That's kind of like trying to hold a public exposition about how awesome is to go around naked, but forbidding the attendance of anyone but those who live with you.

    I believe the organizers and this lady are not clear with the expectations around the kind of event they hold, and what actually suits their needs. With this sort of behavior, however, what they are earning is the reputation of being difficult, cheating and discriminative (cheating because at a convention you are supposed to be able to take part of everything, unless there are several types of fees and you were told about ahead, and difficult because they could have learned from the last experience and they didn't). As result, this nasty lable could stick with them and rub on everything they do.

    Economically speaking, suddenly they could be investing a given amount in an event and not getting their money back. As the failure of the events spread, competitors could pick up on the event, improve the original idea, and start making more money, while they'll slowly slump into a point of no return, where not even the plead of "we won't do it again, we promise" will help them.

    You can bounce back from one mistake, but a second strike on the same acound is much harder to correct.

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  14. Seriously Z. Budapest is the equivlant of female chauvinist pig. The organizers need to ban her for a while or at least make her take a back seat. I am a genetic real women and I am offened by her "real" women? Ah..."Genetic Women Only" bull shit. Small minded truly small minded.

  15. It's no coincidence that Z Budapest's rhetoric reads like a broadside from the feminist movement of the 1970's. That is when her generation initially fulminated their life-long animosity toward transwomen, and that is why this is at root a dispute between generations.

    For those interested in the actual source of Z Budapest's ritual beliefs, check out the decades-long controversy over the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival. That is the culture she is attempting to insinuate into the Pagan world:


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