I think the realization about Pantheacon is the most depressing thing. There is no “perfect love and perfect trust” where lesbians are concerned at Pantheacon. Sure we are welcomed if we go to a mixed event but there is no longer an option to have true public Dianic space.
There will be some lesbians presenting but if they wanted to have a Dianic ritual it would not be a sponsored event and they would take a lot of shit for even having it. I bet the majority of attendees at Pantheacon wouldn’t even notice if no lesbians attended.
One of the reasons I love the Current Pagan Studies Conference is that I am defined by my brain and not who I’m attached to as in the rest of society or in the pagan community. It’s not about who I am linked to socially or sexually or not linked to. Most of life is defined by who you are “owned” by. I’m a whole person like the original meaning of the word virgin, which was ‘whole unto herself’. Not like it’s defined now which is basically unclaimed property. Even though I was presenting about lesbians and I am a lesbian, at the conference, I’m just me using my brain. At any other event, I would be defined by my coven, who I have or have not slept with or are in a relationship with, who I’m related to etc. I would be defined by all my relationships and even though we talked about Pagan Community and relationships this weekend and I was around people I have many relationships with, they were not what defined me. The fact that I had a presentation that came from my brain and hands defined me. Not sure that makes sense but it’s how I feel about it.
I received only positive support for my presentation. So that was a load of energy I didn’t have to expend but I did and it could very easily have gone the other way. I think maybe I was so nervous and apprehensive because of all the past stuff. I used to give talks in classrooms at CSUN about being gay back in the early 80’s when people were convinced they didn’t know any one was gay and then I’d stand up in a class where they often would know me and the shit would fly. I learned early on to say I would take no questions about what lesbians do in bed if they didn’t want me to ask what they did in theirs and that I would take no religion questions because I could not change their mind and they would not be changing my mind.
I had all kinds of reactions to doing those talks. The football players would tell me I just needed a good fuck and I’d have to point out I’d had several and they were from women. Or the guy that accused me of coming out for the sole purpose of not having to date him. He didn’t understand when I told him he was awfully vain but my professor almost fell out of the chair laughing. The only thing that made it really worthwhile doing were the women that told me later that I made it safe for them to come out.
Most people my age have stories about when they came out to their parents and all those traumas because it rarely went well in those days and mine surely didn’t. So there is always the fear and it is justifiable fear because of past experience. You know the friends that stopped speaking to you when you came out. You know that your parents were shits when you came out. And every time you tell someone you are gay you are coming out again and it’s a drag. There used to be an old joke, “Why is it better to be black than gay?” Answer: “You don’t have to tell your parents you are black.”
That kind of thing breeds fear and gets old after awhile but it doesn’t stop the fear from coming or the feeling that you are going to need to duck.
Part 2 How high can I fly?
By 4 of the clock several people had tried to bring me down off the ceiling and it really wasn’t working. I wasn’t so much afraid of presenting the actual stats. I had my PowerPoint and I had my outline and some anecdotes to remember and other notes on my Kindle. I was terrified of the reaction to it when I presented it. Here I was potentially telling a bunch of people whose opinions I value highly that they might be bigots. Internally when I started I was vibrating like one of my dulcimer strings right before they break and do you physical harm flapping around.
I had friends in the room and while I knew that consciously and intellectually. Somewhere in my psyche in a black painted room there were dragons after me and I was gibbering in a corner. I’m glad I used the photo of my Aunt’s 1930 era softball team as my first slide because as I stated in my presentation, it was my revenge. There she is with her team some of whom definitely look like “family” and she was one of the most homophobic people I know of. People laughed when I explained and I finally started to relax.
I told about why I thought about even going with this topic. I told some stories about things that had happened to me and to others. I was surprised to find that the Big Name Pagan I told the story about anonymously was readily named by people after the presentation including by someone who was at the Harvest Moon where it happened. I didn’t remember that he had been there. I also heard from other people who knew who it was before the end of the weekend because they had had problems with the same BNP over the years. So now I know he is just an all around pervert and nasty piece of crap. They suggested we have a 12 step group for people he has attacked. Too funny but not that far off.
I spoke about the loss to the community of some many elders and their collective wisdom. I presented all my statistics and tried to put a face on them and why women born women space is needed by a lot of lesbians and that it can exist along with other spaces, integrated and not integrated. And I presented the surveys I had gotten from non-lesbians. I presented the comments I had labeled “Lesbiphobic” some people wanted to know why I thought they were phobic and I explained it was because they used the words, they or them and identified us as “other” and some were because it assumed being a lesbians had to do with how we dressed or who we slept with and not culture or the fact that it is a lot more than that. And in the case of the person who thought all butches were angry stomping dykes. I got a big laugh when I pointed out I wasn’t angry until I read that.
I talked about the first public ritual I ever attended we were supposed to pass a kiss and some guy stuck his tongue down my throat and when I complained afterwards. Some people made remarks about frigidity or not being able to take a joke. I didn’t go to a public ritual for many years and neither did my coven for many years after that. I talked about non-consensual touch. About being told by some men that women couldn’t work magic without men around or that you had to have the God to do magic or that some lesbians just fear any of the above might happen and don’t want to deal with it. I talked about our invisibility and how the greater pagan community doesn’t notice whether we are there or not and that in itself is a form a discrimination.
And I did it within the time limit which almost all the other presenters didn’t, that did make me wonder if I had done one of my speed talking stunts but oh well. I made people laugh in the right places. I ended it with the picture of me with my brother and sister and dedicated it to them. It did make me wish Cam could have been there to see it. It’s February and I miss him so much every year around his birthday. I hope I made you proud, Cam.
Everyone was talking about Pantheacon all week and it struck me in the middle of presenting that it was kind of sad that my people are no longer welcome there. And that the presentation would be attacked there.
I had a great time at the 10th Annual Current Pagan Studies at Claremont Graduate University. I think it was the best one yet and all the papers presenting were fascinating and engaging. I sometimes was so enthralled I almost forgot I was supposed to be the official photographer but since I ended up with over 500 for the two days I think I got it covered.
The theme of the conference this year was relationships. The first day we had Joseph Merlin Nichter whose presentation was “The Black Spot: Social Stigmas in the Pagan Paradigmns” , which dealt this being a pagan veteran and the challenges they face in a community that has not had the experiences veterans have had and the challenges and triggers veterans face when dealing with Clan Oblivious doesn’t even know or think about what a veteran may be going through when a pagan asking questions like “have you killed anybody?” without thinking about how horrid and stupid that question is.
The second presenter was Garrett Sadler who presented on “Qi – mc2: On Contested Models of Science, Spirituality, and the Acquisition of Scientific Knowledge. This dealt with the different cognitive models of theories and how in particular New Age populations deal with scientific theories. Some of which could apply to pagans but a lot didn’t.
Next came Joseph Futerman who is always dynamic and wonderful on The Burning Times Bugaboo: Using Fear to create Insiders in Contemporary Paganism. About how subscribing to a historical inaccuracy can be used by some to make themselves feel part of an abused minority and create a the communities identity. And what happens if we continue to cling to the idea that millions died for being witches. Record shows that if may have been as low as 40, 000 and it was more likely that being a rich widow would get you condemned as a witch than actually being a witch. I know from my own inquiries in the subject that in Protestant England a one shilling reward was a bigger inducement than anything to report your neighbor than witchcraft.
The fourth presentation on Saturday was Scott Gilliam and The Reemergence of the Pagan Soul and its Voice in the World. The fifth was Sam Webster on The Relationship of Christianity and Paganism which dealt with the reaction to his writing a blog topic on the subject of the impossibility of being both and how he was attacked for saying it and what it says about our community. For the record I totally agree with him, you can’t be both, if for no other reason than the 2nd Commandment.
The sixth and last before lunch was Margaret Froelich’s paper – The Maiden, Mother and the Other One: Testing the Triple Goddess in the Modern World. I liked this one a lot since it’s a construct that makes some feminists happy but does not exist historically, (See my post on Brighid is not a Maiden, Mother, Crone Goddess. She mostly dealt with the fact that Maiden , Mother and Crone do not fit a great many women’s lives and is not really helpful to those who do not have or want children.
The keynote speaker for the day was Lon Milo DuQuette who was very funny and witty and spoke on Good and Evil?! Get Over it!
By now my outright terror of presenting was really starting to manifest itself so I was having trouble concentrating.
Armando D “Murtagh AnDoile” Marini – Proto-Pagans: Precursors of the Modern Pagan Movement – Seeking the Themes of Myth and Magic in the American Experience (1850 to 1975)
Elizabeth Rose-Marini – Mythic Landscape: California and the West Coast – 19th Century Utopias, Cultural Creatives, Health Pioneers and Proto-Pagans
Amy Hale – Cell Block Arcadia: “Nature Religion” and the Politics of Being Pagan
All great presentations that I thought I was paying attention to at the time but did not stick in my increasingly terrified brain.
Joan DeArtemis –Pagan Sexuality: a Striving for Reconciliation and Redemption
Tony Mierzwicki –Ancient Greek Racism, Homophobia, and Misogyny?
“Kat”–A study of Lesbiphobia in the pagan community
Marie Cartier –Book Reading and Signing: Baby, You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars and Theology before Stonewall
By the time I was going to present I was starting to imitate a too tight guitar string.