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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

On Gendered and Genderqueer Mysteries

The result of the Men's Ritual 2017
At Pagan Spirit Gathering (and in most other large Pagan communities) there are gendered mysteries acknowledged.  This includes the following rituals and groups:
  • Yearly Women's Ritual
  • Yearly Men's Ritual
  • Young Women's Rite of Passage
  • Young Men's Rite of Passage
  • Mothering Ritual
  • Daughters of the Dark Moon
  • Men's Rite of Passage
  • Croning Ritual for Women
  • Saging Ritual for Men
In 2014 I met with some trans people at that PSG who were talking about the alienation of the men's and women's rituals; this was if I recall right the year after a trans woman was turned away from the Women's Ritual (they have since codified inclusion of trans women into all women's spaces and trans men into men's spaces, although to be clear trans men rarely are excluded from Pagan men's spaces to begin with).  They discussed a need for a gender ritual for trans and nonbinary people.  I explained that I was totally on board with this idea provided trans men and trans women were not told we could not go to our appropriately gendered mysteries or pressured to go to "the trans ritual," and that I would go provided it was not the same time as the men's ritual.

I hadn't gone to a men's ritual yet, that wouldn't happen until 2016.  One thing I learned in 2016, though, was that even though I am genderqueer and queer bodied, my maleness is still extremely important to me, and because of that full inclusion in men's mysteries is also extremely important to me.  My own iteration of genderqueer mysteries is, after all, basically men's mysteries with relevant mostly-biological mysteries typically honored by women incorporated.  I feel at peace and well in-place at a men's ritual.

So when I found out this year that there would finally be an all-gender ritual, but that it would be at the same time as the men's and women's ritual, I guiltily declined to go to it.  Well, OK.  I don't actually feel guilty about it, because it was reasonably well-attended.  To the organizers' credit, they were very clear that trans men and trans women were welcome at our respective rituals.  So I mulled this over for a couple minutes and went with the men's.  In fact, when I got there I was given a speaking part (I had speaking parts in I think three rituals this year).  We erected a bizarre wooden cone covered in prayer flags (pictured) and one of the organizers developed from submitted two-sentence stories about our fathers one of the most beautiful ritual pieces I've ever heard.  Since the all-gender ritual was a success, I do not regret going to the men's ritual in the slightest.

In fact, I left PSG this year with a more renewed interest in men's mysteries... even with the vagina and estrogen stuff thrown in.  I am strongly considering signing up to take part in the Men's Rite of Passage next year, although I'm sure it'll be exhausting and it will depend on my comfort level and particular gendered feelings at the time.  Although I shouldn't, I do feel awkward in my usual PSG clothes at men's mysteries stuff.  Sidenote: my partner is considering entering the lottery to be in the Sacred Hunt ritual.

In addition to Croning (for women becoming elders) and Saging (for men becoming elders) there is now Senioring, which is an eldering ceremony for folks who would prefer a non-gendered version.  This was really pushed as a thing in the literature we got before arriving, and I was very worried as the first inductee was listed as a trans woman.  I thought "Why would she not get Croned?!"  I did get the opportunity to meet her, though, and although I'm not going to relay the conversation due to privacy concerns, I will say that for this particular woman it makes sense.

Oh, speaking of which, this is important for more than just trans people, because a lot of Pagans are just not into gendered mysteries at all.  There are cis women who are absolutely repelled by women's mysteries stuff and woman-only rituals and vagina period blood magick power stuff (as a man who is into vagina period blood magick power stuff I mean this lovingly) and cis men who are alienated by men's rites.  They deserve to observe life milestones, too!

We did discuss the desire for more trans and gender non-conforming rites of passage other than this, such as a transition rite of passage or something for trans kids.  One of the issues is that Circle Sanctuary basically hears about the need for these things from two people, and the rest of us wind up kind of relaying through them, so there's a perception that this need is more niche than it is (I assure you there are lots of trans people at PSG including a fairly high number of kids!).

Oh, I mentioned at one of the daily Gender Liberation Meetings that I was working on figuring out my own needs regarding genderqueer mysteries and genderqueer herbalism.  I didn't connect with anybody on that who I wasn't already connected to, but confirmed that there's some interest in what I learn so when I get off my ass and document stuff, well, there you go.