Attacking Trans-Phobic Elders
Today a colleague whom I respect very much sent me a link to a petition advocating that Cherry Hill Seminary reconsider having a woman on staff who does not support transgender inclusivity in rituals. I don’t know the woman in question but I’ve been seeing a lot of posts lately stating that “an elder who believes X is not my elder” and in some cases condemning the whole idea of having elders in the first place. I very much support transgender inclusivity and the idea of discriminating against someone because of their gender just boggles but, sadly, I had to decline signing that petition and I’m going to tell you why.
Firstly, to say that we do not need elders is, in my opinion, flat out misguided. For a tradition to be sustainable inter-generationally we absolutely do need our elders. They are tradition keepers, trail blazers, and provide continuity, memory, and strength as a tradition grows and evolves. For a tradition to have a hope of lasting and growing beyond one or two generation, elders are essential and to dismiss the idea because we have issues with hierarchy is just flat out foolish, but this is an article for another day. The purpose of this post is to discuss how equally misguided I find attacking elders whose positions we disagree with to be.
I don’t think we should be shaming and attacking those who are de facto elders in our respective communities. Period. There are ways to educate and gently challenge and dialogue, dialogue, dialogue (and just maybe that should be coming from other elders and peers). If someone has a sincerely held belief about a social issue relevant to actual praxis, I want to know why. I want to hear their theological views. I want discourse. What I don’t want to see is thought-policing someone into silence. That’s not social justice, it’s fucking McCarthyism.
What really does not sit well with me here is the idea that there needs to be some sort of social or political litmus test for who can be part of the Pagan or Polytheist community. Whether we like it or not, some of the people being attacked have made serious contributions to their various communities, involved, crucial, and in some cases foundational contributions. Are we going to throw that history out because we have suddenly come to a crossroads issue wherein we disagree?
Now let me be clear, personally I can’t stand many of the people being vilified, but my objections rest on theological grounds (and wouldn’t it be nice to see people arguing that instead of social shit?). Still, I wouldn’t attack them for their views, though I might challenge and pick apart those views and ideas. I’d rather see people involved in dialogue, however heated, and coming to understand the issues involved without being bullied into it because that’s precisely what is going on : bullying.
In academia (as another person involved in this discussion pointed out), the solution would quite possibly be to bring in other instructors who held opposing viewpoints. There would be dialogue, argument, critique, and probably more argument but eventually something fruitful would hopefully emerge. That to me, is far more preferable, than damning someone into silence wherein we know their views will not have changed.