A Transphobic "Elder" is no Elder of Mine

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A Transphobic "Elder" is no Elder of Mine

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Ruth Barrett has stated in a Public Statement via Facebook the following:      "I believe that we are stronger as a pagan community when we appreciate and support our DIVERSITY, and don’t condemn the differences in our cosmology and practices. This used to be a widespread agreement amongst us. We as a community are tasked with the work of facing each other in mutual respect and with good will." How can Elders like Ruth Barrett have good will, diversity, and respect when her actions do the exact opposite?  Honestly, the need for space around shared experiences, such as menses, child birth, or even healing/rape survivor work is important for women. How can having such space be justification to exclude trans women from MichFest and from the GLBT community in the form of a petition on this very website?

Ruth Barrett has lied at Pagan Spirit Gathering when she stood hand in hand with me pledging to work towards inclusion and space for trans women, and several months later blasted trans inclusion at Michigan Womyn's Music Festival as well as inclusive womyn who supported having trans women included in the Festival. She signed and asked her followers to sign a petition asking leading LGBT organizations to remove Transgender people from the mission statements of their organizations because trans women are "males who identify as women" and are "bullies and threatening...hostile" when they want to be included in womyn's spaces. And she used tactics of silencing and even down right lies to further her transphobic message while blocking myself and others who answer her and call out her lies when she posts them rather than engage them and conversations like she claims to do.

For those who don't know, November is Transgender Awareness Month, a time to give voice to issues many trans women, men, and partners face daily. Also, we remember Trans people who are killed, mutilated, and left with no voice. We gather together to call out their names every year because we want to remember them. We know them. We might be them. And now we also stand and speak out because being proactive rather than reactive will help create real change in our community. How? We start by confronting transphobia when we see it in the actions of Elders, which contribute to a spirit of violence, exclusion, even death for transgender people we know.

Time magazine reported that transgender people are four times more likely than the general population to report living in extreme poverty, making less than $10,000 per year, a standing that sometimes pushes them to enter the dangerous trade of sex work. Nearly 80% of transgender people report experiencing harassment at school when they were young. As adults, some report being physically assaulted trains and buses, in retail stores and restaurants. Greater awareness has not yet translated into broad acceptance, says Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center: “The majority of society does not understand who transgender people are in ways that lead to the violence and the murder and the harassment that we’re seeing.”

The risk is even greater for transgender women of color, who often grapple with both transphobia and racism. Sixteen of the at least 20 LGBT people murdered in 2014 were people of color, according to the NCAVP; 11 were transgender women, and 10 were transgender women of color. “People who are marginalized both because of their race and being transgender, it’s like a double whammy,” says Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

These figures likely don’t give a full picture of violence against the transgender community. Though a federal hate crimes law requires the collection of some statistics related to violence against transgender people, experts are dubious about the numbers they’re getting. “A lot of jurisdictions report zeroes, even in places where we know there are hate crimes,” Keisling says. Most state laws don’t require the collection of such statistics, according to Minter.

You might ask me, "How do I and fellow Pagans address these facts?" There are real effects that impact transgender people in the mundane and spiritual communities. How can we as a Pagan community address these across the country and world? We have to stand up and address these issues in our communities and circles first. We hold these leaders and spaces in our community  accountable when they provide platforms for these people who continue to work towards exclusion, transphobia, and passive/active actions that further transphobia within our community. As a transgender woman, Priestess, and advocate who sees these things happening to me and my trans brothers and sisters, I also want to make a difference and this is a start. 

Since Cherry Hill Seminary is the leading provider of education and practical training in leadership, ministry, and personal growth in Pagan and Nature-Based spiritualities and because Cherry Hill Seminary also has a statement on their website which states, "Cherry Hill Seminary prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, sex, age, marital status, national origin, mental or physical disability, political belief or affiliation, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression or any other class of individuals protected from discrimination under state or federal law in any aspect of the access to, admission, or treatment of students in its programs and activities, or in employment and application for employment." Therefore, we ask that Cherry Hill reconsider how the effects of having Ruth Barrett on staff as a faculty member will affect trans students, trans community members, and friends/family of trans people. Respectfully, we ask that Cherry Hill Seminary ask Ruth Barrett for her resignation based on her actions, which directly impact and cause harm to the mundane and Pagan transgender community.

As a Pagan community we can agree to disagree. However, in my training as a historian, as a Priestess, and just as a human being, I have learned that separate but equal is neither equal nor a solution. Let's talk and discuss this but also share as you can to get this out to our community. Let's say, "We don't support Ruth Barrett, any Priest/ess, school, or Tradition that doesn't support ALL Pagans in community at public gatherings, concerts, workshops, classes, or events. "

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