Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pantheacon's New Limited Access Policy

Saturday, March 10, the folks at Pantheacon released a statement on their website regarding an updating of their events policy. This is in response to the controversies from the past two years involving Z. Budapest and some events put on by her that were for 'Women born women' (2011) or 'Genetic Women Only' (2012). Blogs all around the internet were outraged, both because transgender women were being treated so poorly and because folks on the opposite side of the issue felt that the Dianics were being treated unfairly - that those opposed were trying to limit their practice in some way.

There were, and are, hurt feelings on all sides of the issue. I discussed many of the issues with the phenomenal Sophia Catherine of Divine Community on Episode 68 of Inciting A Riot. And, we can talk about what should and shouldn't be done in public space, in event space, in Pantheacon space until we turn blue, but there were some folks who just weren't talking: the event organizers. I had originally reached out to Glenn Turner - Pantheacon chair - who told me she had no interest in being interviewed. This event happened in mid-late February, and it took Turner about 3 weeks to craft a statement. Far be it from me to criticize someone on taking their time to get the wording of a sensitive response correct. Two years later, and I'm still trying to get Project Pagan Enough right.

Here's the full, unedited statement from Pantheacon regarding Limited Access Events:


PantheaCon will adhere to state and federal laws which require age limitations and non-discrimination on the basis of age, race, national origin or gender. We also affirm the importance of safe space and will continue to schedule presentations that limit attendance to specific groups of individuals. All workshops or rituals that say “Women Only” or “Men Only” will be open to all who self-identify as such. 
PantheaCon cannot police all boundaries. One thing has become evident, simply seeking to make restrictions on gender unambiguous is not sufficient. Prospective presenters applying to make group-specific presentations should be clear in their language about limitations and observe these guidelines. Private rooms, including Hospitality Suites, at the DoubleTree are not subject to this policy. In the past, groups have held invitation-only events and skyclad rituals in private rooms, and PantheaCon will not interfere in these private arrangements. 
PantheaCon aims to provide a safe environment for all of its attendees to enjoy their diverse paths. As we evolve, this policy may be subject to some nuanced changes in the future. We welcome any and all comments on this policy. Feel free to email feedback@pantheacon.com – although we cannot promise a response, all emails will be read.
My first impression is two-fold:

  1. On the one hand, I'm incredibly elated that Pantheacon's policy seems to be evolving. It recognizes that there are very real legal issues that could come from the murky area that exists in the modern day world of public space meeting private practice. I also takes a strong stand against future forms of gender discrimination. Excellent.
  2. I'm also struck at what this statement doesn't say. It doesn't say that their lack of policy change from 2011 to 2012 specifically helped to cause the second year's controversy. It doesn't take ownership of condoning Z. Budapest's hate speech towards transgender women and genetic men by proxy of allowing her a public space to discriminate two years in a row. There is no apology here. There is no sense of 'We messed up.' 
Let me be clear: I am very happy with these changes. I think they are the right changes, and I think it's an important precedent to set for the future. I do, however, have lingering questions regarding Turner's - and the other organizers' - thoughts on Budapest and others like her. Would Budapest be invited to return next year, after the fact of having her unapologetic hate speech zipped around the internet at lightning speed? If so, why? Is it money reasons, as Budapest is a Big Name Pagan and therefore a draw for many? 

I am just curious at the more qualitative aspects of these decisions. The 'why's' and not just the 'how's'. It's not enough - and this is the more sociological part of my brain coming through - to know that Budapest doesn't want transgender women in her circle. It's important to know why. And, the reasons why are pretty salacious. The 'why's' inform us as to whether this is someone we can support, someone we can endorse. When someone writes posts like this, that are mostly baseless and make wild claims such as:
  • Latent homosexuals are dangerous to women.
  • Women are universally hated by the male gender.
  • Men beat women who are like the Goddess.
The list goes on, and that's just one blog post. It's important to know why people act, so we know how to react. To know why we react. 

So, congratulations Pantheacon on the evolution. 

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

5 comments:

  1. I'm pleased that Pantheacon has finally made this statement, and I do hope they take time in the near future to fine tune it because there are some ambiguous areas. Perhaps that's intentional to give themselves some wiggle room.

    I am, like you, disappointed that they have chosen not to take responsibility for their failure in preventing this travesty in the first place, much less allowing it to occur two years in a row...so I am left wondering also if this statement isn't so much motivated by PR spin and money rather than by doing the right thing. I would hope it would be the latter.

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  2. I am generally a fan of inclusion in most situations but I think here, I have to disagree. z. Budapest's Group represents a religion at a religious function. It's just plain silly to try to force a religion to accept people they clearly make every effort to EXCLUDE.
    As a divorced/re-married female, I'd hardly expect to walk into a Catholic Church and be accepted with open arms. I wouldn't ask to nor would I make a big dramatic staged scene because they didn't. Were I seeking acceptance into some form of Christianity, I'd simply find a branch that accepted me. I cannot fathom why 'non-genetic women' (if that is the term they were using) would want to be part if it in the first place. Pagans are accepting, every branch of Paganism is not.
    This issue has got to be attention seeking at it's worst. It's attention seeking for Z.Budapest's Group, It's attention seeking for those who opposed her policy and it's attention seeking by the organizers of Pantheacon. Even more so for them because they didn't make a statement for weeks. Any decent lawyer could have barfed up that statement in less than an hour. The Organizers were clearly trying to draw things out. But that is not the worst part of it. The worst part of it is this story has made steps into the mainstream media. It makes ALL Pagans look like whiney, small-minded, lunatic drama-queens. It's embarrassing for those of us trying to represent Pagans rationally and responsibly in our communities. I don't want to be associated with the Pagan Community in any way when this kind of thing happen. It diminishes us all.

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    1. I agree... Why should anyone force their way into a ritual that they aren't wanted in? And how could you possibly feel spiritually okay with this? I can understand frustration because it wasn't announced that it was for female-born women and not female-identified, however, I don't feel that this required so much attention and anger. I am a foster parent, not a birth parent, and because of this I have been excluded from rituals intended for mothers. Even though I do feel like a mother, I also don't want to fight my way into a ritual I'm not wanted in. If the people performing the ritual don't accept that I am a mother than why do I even want to be in a ritual space with them?

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  3. Perhaps it's not my place, but the statement released by Pantheacon seems much like a bone to throw to the dogs so they stop barking. I see a veiled, manipulated, unclear "concession" to a very, very serious situation. It should be important that they separate "conventions" from "private gatherings". Basically it's arranged so that anyone based merely on "GENETIC GENDER" can get in, but not for people with the spiritual disposition to get in. You see, Z.B., seems to forget that women can be d*cks too. You don't have to have one to be one, and women also mistreat women.

    A woman who was born man can be more sensitive, more spiritual, closer to the principles of Dianic rituals than many women born women. Pantheacon, with this hazy statement makes clear one thing: they want to keep cashing, but they also have a damaged sense of pride, and those two, sadly, are mutually excluding. Paganism is real and is honest, and they can't keep treating the community as if it where a bunch of late teens in cosplay, wearing black t-shirts and working to buy figurines and collectibles while living in their parent's basement.

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  4. There was quite a bit of discussion on the topic on the Pantheacon facebook page. I think anyone can join it, you just have to request it.

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