Open Letter to the Goddess Temple of Orange County

Some of you have followed my tweets about my spiritual journey and the Goddess Temple of Orange County. After an incident that occurred there this morning, I felt moved to send the following letter via email to the Goddess Temple. I hope you’ll join me in urging them to reconsider their position.

High Priestess Ava and Sisters of the Temple,

I left the Temple this morning in the middle of service in a heartbroken state after hearing Ava’s words concerning the exclusion of transwomen from the Temple. In the safety of my car, I sobbed and screamed in grief and frustration. I thought I’d found my spiritual home at last, but I was wrong. I was devastated.

Today was not my first visit to the Temple, and on my other visits I experienced profound relief and joy. That such a place exists! I felt welcomed and valued and lifted up as a woman, as a person. The Queen teachings of the Temple brought me peace and strength, and enhanced my personal practice.

The message today, that transwomen are less than women, that they’ve been violated and mutilated and deny the truth of who they are, is hurtful. It was like a blow to my face. In the Temple space, I felt safe and honored, and this was a violation of trust. It was a vulnerable time for participants, and you used that time to insert a painful topic when a group dialogue outside the safe space of Temple would have been more appropriate.

I’m not a transwoman, but what if I were? What if I’d come to the Temple this morning seeking solace and comfort and acceptance after living in the bigoted, unfriendly world that makes me feel like a freak for trying to reconcile who I am on the inside to what the world says I am on the outside? Your words caused me great sadness; I can’t imagine the deep hurt and betrayal a transwoman would have felt.

I appreciated your acknowledgment of the multi-gender system that some cultures have. But the other comments you made were reprehensible. I am a magickal person, and I shape my reality and defend it in accord with my will. Transgendered people, men AND women, CHOOSE to shape their bodies in accordance with their will. They’re on a life journey. The doctors you mentioned work for them, and many work as compassionate facilitators of the new lives their patients desire. No one forces them to change. In fact, they often have to fight for the right to surgically alter themselves. Equating their choices with the travesty of infant intersex reassignment and comparing them to “a white child adopted into an African village where they don’t belong” is abhorrent.

Did you know that 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide? The reasons are probably complex, but my guess is prejudice drives them to despair.

I urge the Temple to stand on the side of love and acceptance, not bigotry. I can’t feel safe at the Temple or be part of it otherwise.

We shape our own reality. We hold the world in our hands. We can make it better.

In faith and peace,

Tracie Welser

update: 4/29/2012 Comments for this post are now closed.

96 thoughts on “Open Letter to the Goddess Temple of Orange County”

  1. It’s so sad how much work you have to go through to find a place that preaches acceptance and actually means it.

    I find you of a brilliant moral character for leaving a space that is technically safe and welcoming for you because it’s not safe and welcome for all women. And I find you the warmest of souls for being the kind of person who actually doesn’t feel safe in a space that isn’t safe for all women.

    I’m proud to know you. I hope your ordeal serves a deeper purpose, however, than reaffirming that you’re awesome. I hope they listen.

  2. Thank you for your kind words. It really is heartbreaking, and the support I’ve received today from the Twitter community has been hugely heartening.

    I’ve seen this happen in more than one women-only space, but from a safe distance. A spiritual and conscious-raising group affiliated with my women’s studies program in Florida dealt with it years ago, and their group basically imploded and dissolved. It happened at PantheaCon last year and echoes of it went on this year.

    Those occurrences made me sad, but I wasn’t close to that pain. I also witnessed others stepping up to creative meaningful dialogue and healing. This hit close to my heart. I moved here to CA last year, and I’ve been looking for a nurturing space. The Temple seemed nearly perfect. A little New Age, maybe, heavy on the second-wave womb-talk, but empowering. Today blew that to pieces, and the hurt I feel is nothing, I’m sure, to the pain excluded women are going through.

    The high priestess also said today that maybe people who aren’t welcome at the Temple may want to start their own church. That may be the one bit of advice from her that I accept.

    1. I do not take the term “high” priestess, as I dislike the “high” and “low” aspects implied. My correct title is “Presiding Priestess.” Kindly use that term in the future when referring to me. Thank you.

      It is an intrinsic part of my thealogy that those I define as “women” are those bearing wombs. I honor all beings as they were created and think that we should have many more genders in America than just “male” and “female.” This would accurately reflect reality rather than what is happening now.

      We are a small church with a definite point of view. We make our point of view, our religious beliefs quite clear. For those who agree, we welcome them as members and attendees. For those who don’t agree, why not simply find another church? Is not everyone free to have their own religious view? Why do you attempt to force this church and these congregants to believe other than what they believe? We have a point of view and we put it forth peacefully for the consideration of all. Our view does not call for the harming of anyone, it simply defines things differently from you. If you disagree, why fight and spend time pointlessly railing against us … why not simply find a church that is in alignment with your views? As I have said repeatedly, I will help any transgroup create their own church. I will offer my time and energy and knowledge to help them create an incredible liturgy and experience that would be wonderful –for all who attend. I also have made known to my transacquaintances that I would like to have events at the Temple that honor and share the transexperience, which is a different experience from other genders. This is an experience, like all human experiences, which should be known by everyone. That offer stands. Finally, I offer you my respect and appreciation –all who are posting here — for their humanity and their effort to understand and come to their own cogent views. I believe our views as individuals should come from, as much as possible, our direct experience, not the reports from others about events which we did not attend, and have no direct experience of. You attended the Temple, but you did not report accurately. I never said transpeople were “less than” women. That phrase would never come from me, as that is in direct opposition to what I believe … and what I state repeatedly …. that all beings have equal and inherent and intrinsic value —not that they are the SAME but that they have equal value.
      –Ava, Presiding Priestess, The Goddess Temple of Orange County

      1. Substitute the words “African-American” in your message for “transwoman” and what do you get?

        Another way of saying, “separate-but-equal”.

        Yes, in the American South before the 1960s, the White majority was responsible for helping “create” separate-but-not-so-equal “spaces” for African-Americans. They pointed out that White people simply shouldn’t be “forced” to be in the same places as Black people, it makes them uncomfortable. That their experiences and culture are not the same as Black people’s, so they shouldn’t be “forced” to believe that Black and White people are in any way the same, because that’s what they believe. That public events like dances would be glad to have “Negro days” (see the Waters film, “Hairspray”) but they shouldn’t try to “force” their way into the NORMAL events for NORMAL (i.e. White) people. They might even be glad to try to teach those poor Negroes how to dance!

        Look, Presiding Priestess, if you want to be bigoted, fine. Embrace it. Stick to your guns honestly, like the Z Budapests and David Dukes of the world. I’m not trans, I’m a cis-gendered straight male. But if I was, I would personally find your naked pandering even more insulting than just proclaiming your real opinion – which is clearly obvious.

      2. Is the Goddess strictly an American citizen? Is She bound to our limited acculturations?

        My sisterhood is offered to anyone who will embrace it. If I accept othering in deference in approaching the Goddess as she asked me to do, I am not coming to her.

        1. But don’t worry, I won’t bother those who won’t see me for my sisterhood. I can find perfect love and perfect trust in others.

          1. Oh wait! I get it. The Goddess is to blame! I can’t accept transwomen as WOMEN because the GODDESS says so!

            Just like Southern Baptists can’t accept those mud people, oops, I mean ‘Children of Cain’, oops I mean NEGROES as equal to MY people because GOD said so!

      3. I’ve had a hysterectomy. My sister was born with ovaries and Fallopian tube but no uterus. Are we not women?

        1. Having a womb removed due to surgery is like having any other body part surgically removed. Because humans can be defined as “bi-pedal” does not mean if you lose your leg in an accident that you are no longer human. If you were born with a womb and had it removed due to surgery, you are still a woman by our definition. You still have an etheric body womb. For your sister who was born with ovaries and fallopian tubes but no uterus, I would have to have more information before I can comment. Perhaps this is similar to a human being born without legs …. a variation on the common form. Still human, of course. A human born without a womb? Perhaps a similar variation … and if there were a large percentage of such humans born … perhaps their own gender should be defined, acknowledged and celebrated! As I repeatedly say, American culture is wrong to jam people into two genders only. We need many more to be in alignment with the reality of the incredible diversity and beauty of humanity … and we need to celebrate all the genders for who they are. Not just say, “if you’re not male, you must be female!” –Ava, Presiding Priestess, The Goddess Temple of Orange County

          1. “I would have to have more information before I can comment.”

            Ava, I think this hits the nail on the head of what many of us are upset about. You don’t need more information, because you are not the arbiter of gender. I know all I need to of Alleyne’s sister: she’s her sister, and thus mine—and yours.

            You seem to be overly concerned with genitalia; I am more than my uterus.

          2. Ava writes: “If you were born with a womb and had it removed due to surgery, you are still a woman by our definition. You still have an etheric body womb.”

            Perhaps transwomen have etheric body wombs and this is one reason they feel they are women. Or maybe post-surgery transwomen acquire etheric body wombs. Before you say no, how do you know it’s not so? And if this is true, isn’t it a spiritual injustice to deny them access to your temple?

  3. Powerfully stated, Tracie. I hope this letter finds good audience and begins a dialogue towards healing and understanding.

    And also, that you are able to find the safe nurturing place you long for.

    1. Thank you for the good wishes. This was a hard and eye-opening day.

      One thing I realized is that the writing community is a supportive and open-minded space, and I feel gratitude that I’m part of it.

  4. Ditto Puss In Boots: “And I find you the warmest of souls for being the kind of person who actually doesn’t feel safe in a space that isn’t safe for all women.” It makes me think of Dr. King’s quote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I think it sends a powerful message to the Goddess Temple that cutting off trans-women hurts not only those cut off, but you, other women, and the Goddess Temple itself.

    I hope that I can be as sensitive and brave and eloquent as you. I’m glad that I have your example. 🙂

    1. We do not “cut transwomen off” … we welcome all genders at our Wednesday Evening Services. –Ava, Presiding Priestess, The Goddess Temple of Orange County

      1. Does it bother you AT ALL that your position on transsexual identities is literally indistinguishable from the Christian right?

      2. If you deny the womanhood of trans women, you are cutting them off by making them feel unsafe and unwanted and othered.

  5. I wanted to say, too, that I know it’s important for women to have safe-spaces, free from the influence of men. But you don’t fight patriarchy by marginalizing others.

    There needs to be more dialogue, more attempts at understanding, instead of this rush to create narrow definitions of womanhood, specifically designed to exclude a target group. I’m glad that you call for this in your letter.

    1. Thank you. Your support means so much to me.

      I believe in the importance of women-only spaces, too. I recognize the reasons those spaces exist. In multiple spaces, sometimes as part of participant observation and research, I’ve listened women speak passionately about the reasons, and I know from my own personal practice how valuable that safety is (the Red Tent is among the spaces that intersect in both sets of experiences). I’ve seen women-only spaces change lives and empower.

      But successful, safe, egalitarian and organic groups have ongoing dialogue. Adaptation and growth are a process. Today, I went into Temple with an open, worshipful mind and heart to hear a message about the goddess Sybele. I feel the trust I placed in the Temple leaders was exploited. We were told what to think, and it was fully assumed that I would concur. I’d like to believe it wasn’t done with a manipulative intent, but the service seemed set up to reinforce and honor participants’ embodiment of woman-born Womanhood, and then demonstrate by contrast the horrors and “unreality of cis- and transgender.” We were charged to meditate on this “unreality” and reject it, which I simply could not do.

      I hope that good comes of this awful time, and that the Temple leaders open their hearts to the “reality” that is shared by so many of the spiritual seekers they’re turning away.

      1. Wait.

        The Goddess Cybele? As in “the Goddess with THE single most visible-to-modern-eyes example of an order of transsexual priestesses spreading thousands of years, until they were murdered by the Catholic Church hierarchy who then stole their regalia and their temples?” As in THAT Goddess Cybele? And they used a ritual to Her, to actively disrespect trans women?

        … Right now I have NO words to describe how angry I am.

        Cissexuals are welcome to worship Cybele all you want, but you CAN NOT claim Her protection and disrespect those of Her priestesses who paid the highest price during the Christian takeover.

        1. Kate,
          Ava has indicated that my perspective on the topic of the service is very different that what she intended (see most of her responses), but the word “mutilation” was used to describe the practices of the devotees of Sybele/Cybele who altered their bodies. It wasn’t a positive characterization.

      2. With respect to all:
        We agree that everyone is entitled to their own reality. That would include the members of The Goddess Temple, as well. Our reality is that we define “woman” as that group of human beings bearing naturally created wombs.

        We do not “turn anyone away.” We celebrate all genders and open our Temple every week to all genders, every Wednesday evening, and at many other events, as well. We welcome all adults of all genders at The Temple, and at the same time we do hold individual meetings of groups of like individuals. Those who are not of that group are not invited. Naiad Priestess Circle meetings are open only to Naiad Priestesses because its a meeting for their group, not a meeting for everyone. Votress Circle meetings are open only to Votresses because its a meeting for their group, not a meeting for everyone. Sunday Services is held for that group of human beings bearing naturally created wombs, not a meeting for everyone.

        When I as Presiding Priestess ask all in circle to “place their hands on their wombs,” energetically, there needs to be a physical or etheric womb there in order to do so, otherwise it doesn’t make sense … it doesn’t acknowledge reality.

        Some transpeople are complaining that this Temple discriminates against them for not permitting them to come to a “woman-only” meeting. Why are they not complaining that we are discriminating against men? Why are some transpeople so willing–even anxious–to be part of a group that discriminates, as long as it’s not against them? Those complaining against us do not seem to mind that we hold “woman-only” space, yet, I ask, is this not the same kind of discrimination? I fail to see the logic in agreeing that we are entitled to hold “woman-only” space, not permitting men at one type of meeting, and yet we are not entitled to hold ” womb-bearing human space,” not permitting those who do not have natural wombs to attend one type of meeting. The essential question is: are we entitled to hold meetings of any kind, and say “only one type of human is permitted at this meeting?” If you say “no, everyone should be able to come to any meeting at The Temple at any time for any reason,–no discrimination!” then you would have to disagree with our right to “woman only” space, regardless of how you defined “woman.” If you say “yes, The Temple should be able to hold meetings for like groups of people as those groups define themselves and as they choose to meet,” then logically you would have to agree that we are also entitled to choose to have a type of meeting that is for “womb bearing humans” only. –Ava, Presiding Priestess, The Goddess Temple of Orange County

        1. The problem is not, as I understand it, that there is discrimination (yes, a Votress Circle is for Votresses), but that there is a more narrow definition of “woman” than expected in a “safe” space. If women-born-women (even transmen) have an “etheric womb” even if they no longer have a physical womb, it stands to reason that transwomen also have an etheric womb. Goddess has made these women women but did not see fit to give them a physical womb. Who are we (who are you) to say why their etheric body “looks” like?

    2. This Temple defines Woman as “that human being bearing a naturally created womb.” You do not become something simply because you “identify” with that group. If I am white, I do not become “black” simply because I choose to “identify” with African-Americans. My skin is still white, no matter what I identify with. Women, in our thealogical definition, are those who are born with wombs, the ability to carry on human life, the ability to bleed monthly (of course, there are physical exceptions for those women who for health and physical reasons do not bleed, or who have had their wombs removed due to surgery–we are talking of the general definition of woman, apart from exceptions such as these ). The womb is a portal and gateway to many things. Creating a space inside a body surgically does not make a womb. Woman is not made on an operating table by a man in a white coat with a knife. This is not reality. To be able to “decide” that you are a woman erases all that Woman actually is. It erases reality. It is the same patriarchal reversal that occurs when a culture like the Greeks create a false myth of Zeus, a male, birthing Athena, out of his forehead. It is simply not reality. We are a culture which cannot see reality and cannot accept reality. There should, as there is in Bali, be many more genders than just two, male and female. This limiting idea of so-called Western society–just two genders– is also not reality. Our ridiculous and blind patriarchal culture tries to jam all human beings into the boxes “male” and “female.” This does not accurately reflect human reality, which clearly has many more genders than just these two. If we had more genders which honored the reality of the incredible diversity of how human beings are made, then human beings who do not fit into “male” or “female” boxes would not feel the need to surgically alter themselves to try to fit into one of those boxes. The culture would honor their true natures as they were created in the Divine Intelligence of Goddess, Who makes no mistakes, and we would respect each other, instead of fighting over what is male and what is female. It is true that you don’t fight patriarchy by marginalizing others. But is is equally true that you don’t fight patriarchy by ignoring reality. What is a woman? Anything we decide it is? That erases what Woman actually is, the life carrier, the womb bearer, the one of the blood mysteries. It negates, ignores and dishonors that power if we say that Woman is “just anything we decide it is.” Transpersons do not have that power and that is simply reality. They have OTHER powers, which are very important…. and which we honor and acknowledge. But they don’t have the power to create and carry life in their bodies, so they are not Woman. They are wonderful, they are exquisite, they are perfect just as they are, and they are not Woman. This is simply reality. We are buying into the patriarchal paradigm of just two genders when we fight over who is male and who is female. We should step out of that limiting and false paradigm altogether … not be tricked by it … and we should broaden and open to reality and allow for the acceptance of as many genders as there actually is in human reality. –Ava, Presiding Priestess, The Goddess Temple of Orange County

        1. I agree. Our patriarchal society is to blame for this entire gender upset and conflict. –Ava, Presiding Priestess

          1. He’s mocking you. If you had read his other comments, you would know this.

            A woman is a person who identifies as such. I have all the equipment you say that a person needs to be a woman, but I do not identify as such, which makes me not a woman. And, regardless of the fact that I have found a way to identify outside the binary, I actually do feel a need to surgically alter myself. People would feel dysphoria if society recognized more than 2 genders. And trans women would still be women if society opened up to more than two genders. As a person with disabilities, I know that sometimes medical technology is necessary to correct biological mistakes, so I am working towards getting surgery to alter my body so that it will be the way it should have always been.

            You are the one erasing reality. You are being bigoted and hiding behind religious belief to excuse your bigotry.

        1. @ Karen St. John: what are these non-sequiturs supposed to be saying? Honestly, I don’t understand what your point is. Could you just come right out and say it instead of posing cryptic questions?

          1. Lady Ava says above the Temple acknowledges and honors OTHER “powers” in trans persons. I am asking for articulation as to which powers are these. Not cryptic at all, but rather a pointed question of Lady Ava.

          2. I am a transsexual woman. In one breath, my identity is called a creation of the table, though I felt that way long before that particular day.

            Yet in another breath, I am said to be imbued somehow with honored special qualities or “powers” What are they, as I have not felt them? Then I’m spoken of almost as a contaminant, excluded as somehow unsafe. There are the non sequiturs.

          3. Ah, then I apologize for misunderstanding you.

            I would also very much like to hear, speaking as someone who has NO EXPERIENCE of being trans, what “powers” Lady Ava believes that transwomen have that ciswomen do not.

          1. I would be grateful if during these conversations people simply referred to me as Ava, rather than “High Priestess Ava” or “Lady Ava.” I don’t take the title “Lady” or “High Priestess.” I feel that these titles are elitist and do not reflect reality. I am not “high” or “higher” than anyone else, and every woman can be called “Lady,” as it just means “mistress of the house.” “Lady” comes from a feudal time of serfs/slaves and so-called “nobility.” Women are either all ladies or none of us are … we’re all noble and none of us is a slave.

            My “silence” is just that I was away at Sunday Services for a few hours. Patience, please! I am not on the computer twenty-four hours a day. Thanks for listening …. and now on to Karen’s question.

            I believe each gender (and I believe there are MANY more than just two, male and female) is divinely created, divinely intended and divinely imbued with sacred powers of their own. Those powers are meant to be fully expressed for the good of all humanity. Each gender is utterly necessary to a complete world. I believe that those we are now calling “transgendered” were actually born a specific gender, one that is not named, identified, acknowledged or celebrated in patriarchal culture. So I have no name to call them, but I know other indigenous cultures do have specific names besides “male” and “female.” For example, in certain indigenous native American cultures (and I’m sure most of you know this, because I’m sure most of you are quite educated on this subject, probably more so than I am), there is the “Two Spirit.” This gender is (not in all tribes, but in some) honored as powerful, necessary, and as true natural shamans and medicine people, who have many magical powers by virtue of their “differentness” from those of “regular” male and female gender. These magical powers are known to be important and valuable to the psychological and spiritual health of the entire tribe, and the tribe considers itself “less” if it is missing a person of this gender. These are the powers I am talking of here. These are the powers we must as a society acknowledge and appreciate. We must not force these unique beings into being “male” or “female” simply because those are the only two boxes we permit them. What a loss! What a horror to people of these other genders! To be ignored, no, even worse … ERASED from society! That’s what patriarchy has done … ERASED these genders from our culture … genders which the Divine intended to be present in their original form to make humanity whole and diverse and wonderful. I say, rather than telling these genders “you don’t feel male, so you have to be female” or “you don’t feel female, so you have to be male” … rather than that, I say let’s bring back reality! Let’s bring back the original plan … diversity! As a society, let’s clearly name once again all the many genders there are … there are at least five that I can think of … and let’s give them honoring names in our current and common language, names that recognize the humanity, essential worth and dignity of each gender. Let’s celebrate them, and let’s have churches that celebrate them. The Goddess Temple will! I call for anyone who wants to come together in an online or in-person, ongoing meeting wherein we discuss what the genders might be and define them –as THEY each wish to be defined–and give them amazing names … I ask those people to join me in leading the way to form a society where we celebrate this Goddess-given diversity in its original, natural form and glory. I see a fascinating discussion possible … one that is kind, compassionate, allows for freedom, and recognizes reality! Thank you all for listening and considering these words. I respect your right to hold a different opinion. –Ava, Presiding Priestess, The GODDESS TEMPLE of Orange County

          2. I apologize for giving you a title you are not comfortable with, Ava. No disrespect was intended, and I appreciate your making your feelings known so gently.

            In re: special powers. I don’t feel them. I do feel right and happy living as a woman…which was decidedly NOT the case while living in the male world. Living as a special daughter of the Goddess (I acknowledge I am not a normal female) feels harmonious for me and the women in my life, including the HPss to whom I am Maiden. The Goddess, while not imbuing me with a reproductive capacity, has shown me other aspects of the Divine Feminine, including peacemaking between her progeny. She is multifaceted.

            I fully understand that Moon Blood rituals are not appropriate for me. That does not invalidate my relationship.

            If some of us are to walk between worlds as transsexual, people will need to lose their fear of us. Z Budapest, and a considerable number of radicals, are promoting a fear of assault and invalidation, when in fact there is no invalidation and the physical threat is simply not in our nature. It is misapprehension.

            Will you join us in letting us share ourselves and our stories? Lessen the fear and making peace?

  6. Thank you for your kind words, Tracie. I too was a transwoman kicked out of the temple after a number of months of attendance. I had as allies almost all of the priestesses, including at first Lady Morrighan. Her support is why I was able to stay as long as I did. However, after several months, I received a phone call from Ava demanding to know about what my birth certificate said and what my genitalia were. She had no concept of understanding of Intersex or care of understanding of chromosomes or the difference between the inner self and the outer self. At first, it appeared I was going to have the full support of all but one of the priestesses, including Lady Morrighan, with what I’ll simply call a major power play. However, Ava was not to be moved and she shut down any resistance with dictatorial force. She wrote me a letter stating I was no longer welcome because some of the women were not comfortable with a transwoman because of incidents in their lives that happened with men. She also forced Morrighan into a capitulating position, whereby she also said she was always going to support Ava. Ava’s arguments always came from mimicking Z Budapest or the traditions of Second-wave Feminism. I don’t think I need to explain those here. But, certainly, I was heartbroken and angry. To hear that it happened again means its probably happened before me, and as long as Ava is in charge (and raking in the dough?), the policy is unlikely to change. I looked at there site and it does appear they are still hiding the page showing their policy, but it is probably still up to be found. I still would like to see a large picketing of the Temple and media coverage.

    1. Ashley, I’m so sorry to hear that this happened to you. This issue has been surfacing over and over again Pagan and Goddess communities (like the Z. Budapest incident at PantheaCon last year and again this year). This discrimination is an incredibly sad thing to see in communities that are otherwise welcoming and affirming.

      To be clear, I am not a transwoman, but I was deeply hurt and offended by the horrid remarks made by Ava. Her statements were reprehensible, and in the context of participant vulnerability seemed abusive and manipulative. I would like to give her and the Temple staff the benefit of the doubt, as Ava is clearly in the dark about the complexities of the gender spectrum, but it was so painful to listen, in sacred space, to language that demeaned and attempted to delegitimize the very personhood of transwomen, some of whom very well could have been present. It was especially difficult to hear the priestesses chiming in with praise and support for her statements. Those moments transformed the sacred space of the Temple forever for me, from a holy place to a hostile, unsafe one.

      I’m saddened but not entirely surprised that the priestesses initially supported you but withdrew their support under pressure from Ava. The leadership dynamic of the Temple is clearly not an egalitarian one, and that is foreign to my experience in Goddess community. The Red Tent leaders of Florida Pagan Gathering dealt with a similar issue a few years ago in a democratic and affirming manner (at least from my perspective) and made it clear that all women are welcome.

      I actually received a reply from Ava the day I posted this open letter, in which she restated her position in a reasoned manner but refused to acknowledge the trauma of my experience. She downplayed the abusive language and inappropriate manner in which she and the priestesses conducted the service. I’m considering posting some of that letter here.

      I support your call to protest the Temple’s decision and would participate in such an opportunity.

    2. Ashley, what you report here is so far from the truth that I am truly shocked that you would say this. You saw how difficult this entire exchange was for us, how kind we were as we spoke to you of our beliefs, which were different from your. I spoke to you softly, compassionately, with care and kindness. You know this is true. You did not have the outcome that you desired, but since our policy on transpersons is posted on our website, you knew you were entering the Temple under false pretenses. You knew how we defined “woman” and still you came without saying that you were a transperson. You lied to us by omission. You are offended and aggrieved, yet in fact, you were the one who violated our clearly stated beliefs by your omission of facts. I treated you with respect and kindness, even at the conclusion, when we did indicate that you could not attend Sunday Services if you were not woman as we defined it, a womb-bearing human. For you to characterize the events in this way, for you to say that you were treated badly by the temple? You know this is not so. I did not force First Priestess Morrighan into any position; she agreed with me, and if you ask her directly, she will tell you so. Call her today if you want clarification from her directly. Another falsehood in your statement is that we are “raking in the dough.” This is simply not true. I have given my life savings to create this Temple. I do not get paid by this Temple, and no one else does either. We all volunteer our time. We make just enough each month to pay our rent and electricity and buy tealights. We have a few hundred dollars in savings at this moment. To say we are “raking in the dough” is simply false. If you wish to see our financial statement, this is provided to anyone upon request. Please request a financial statement if you so desire by contacting Please consider your comments more carefully and do not make statements about this Temple which are simply false. –Ava, Presiding Priestess, The Goddess Temple of Orange County

      1. Yes, Ashley, even though you’re “light-skinned”, you had no right to sit in the front of the bus!

        Go sit in the back, with your own kind, and stop making your superiors uncomfortable. The back of the bus is very nice and has it’s own seats just like ours (well, not cleaned as often, but ALMOST.)

        1. Let us please engage in polite, respectful discourse rather than sarcasm and hyperbole, which does not further understanding amongst us all. Thank you for considering this point of view. –Ava, Presiding Priestess, The Goddess Temple of Orange County

  7. Tracie W, this:

    “I’m not a transwoman, but what if I were?”

    made me think of this:

    “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together. (Lilla Watson, et al.)”

    A quote which often gives me strength when I need it. Doesn’t sound like you need it, though, good for you. I can’t imagine how hard it must’ve been for you to leave after having found it. Maybe I’ll visit your Temple some time 🙂

    Ashley Wilde,

    “I received a phone call from Ava demanding to know about what my birth certificate said and what my genitalia were.”

    I’m speechless. I’m so sorry that you had to go through that. And horrified. And enraged.

    I’ve wanted to visit the Goddess Temple since I’d heard of its existence—and especially since I’ve heard of your, Tracie W., experiences there. I still want to visit, and likely will—like a Catholic cathedral, I will find something there that I don’t in everyday life, even if I can’t find everything there. But I won’t become a member, and that’s saddening.

    1. xJane,
      Thank you. You’re a powerful ally, and I’m glad of it!

      For Ashley, and others who are interested, here is the page on the Goddess Temple’s website that used to contain an non-inclusive statement of their official policy. Now, it’s been updated to reflect a “far from perfect” compromise they’ve come up with to accommodate transgendered visitors. It doesn’t appear to be linked and visible on the site itself yet.

      I’m not satisfied that this effort is enough, and it’s wrong of the Temple to choose how they will define trans (as “two spirit beings”), on their own terms, instead of accepting the undeniable right of transwomen to define their own terms, their own personhood. It’s still a way of saying to transwomen, “You are not real women,” a line that Ava repeated multiple times during her rant against transwomen on the original date of this post.

      1. Hmm, and I’ve just noticed that the new policy is “effective January 2009.” It only appeared recently and is not visible from the main page.

        1. The Wayback Machine has recorded three prior instances of that page: two from May of 2008, and one from December of that same year.

          The December 2008 version seems to match the one currently on the site (albeit with different visual design), and would be consistent with an effective date of Jan ’09.

          The previous versions are unavailable at the moment: “Bummer. The machine that serves this file is down. We’re working on it.” Which might mean only precisely what it says, and it might show up as available later, but it is also the case that it is possible to have snapshots removed from the Archive.

          It would certainly be interesting to see what the prior pages contained. (Not that it changes the ridiculous nature of this policy.) But it does seem to have been online since 2008, or maybe up at that time, pulled down later, and put back up recently, which might explain why there are no more recent snapshots.

          1. Keith,
            Right, I’ve seen the Wayback archived instances, and I’m concerned that I can’t prove what I’ve stated as far as recent content is concerned.

            However, I did receive an email from the Temple that included some of the language previously posted there; I’m considering sharing it publicly.

      2. I just read the 2009 page, and one of the things it says is: “For most Temple-sponsored events such as Sunday Services and Holy Day Rituals, and when we are open to the public for prayer, we continue to hold “woman-only space,” for women-born women only.”
        The phrase “when we are open to the public for prayer,” to me is inconsistent with limiting the space in any way. If it’s “open to the public” then anyone can participate. If it’s limited to “women-born-women only” then it’s not “open to the public.”

    2. What Ashley reports is untrue. I did not “demand” this information. During the course of our conversation, as I shared again our definition of woman, “the human who is naturally womb-bearing,” these questions came up. I asked if Ashley was woman as we defined it. She would not answer directly. As we continued to talk …. and this was a quiet, soft conversation …not at all in the spirit in which she is characterizing it here … in trying to come to a conclusion in a situation where Ashley refused to answer directly, these topics came up. I was gentle and respectful. It is one of the unfortunate aspects of the internet that any lie can be told in black and white and now instead of just being heard by a few people, now many can hear and automatically believe what is being reported is exactly as it happened. I caution everyone who is hearing a description of a conversation that they were not present for to remember what police know … that if there are ten witnesses to an event, you will have ten different descriptions of what happened. Above is mine. Very different from Ashley’s. –Ava, Presiding Priestess, The Goddess Temple of Orange County

      1. “Are you, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?”

        I think the answer given by Joseph Welch in 1954 applies here:

        “Have you no sense of decency, sir [or madam]? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

    3. She did not have to ” go through this” because this conversation did not happen in this way. –Ava, Presiding Priestess, The Goddess Temple of Orange County

  8. Wow.

    I…just…wow. I don’t even know what to say. I read the “official” policy you linked to above, and it is such a trainwreck of third-gendering bull****, I don’t even know what to say. It explicitly misgenders trans women with the bit about “women-born women only events…free from the male gaze”. A trans woman is not an agent of male gaze. It pays a tiny bit of lip service to “the sacredness of all beings”, but that’s a flimsy veil over an ugly well of exclusion and bigotry.

    And especially when you describe the way in which it was presented during the service, the way it was handed down as This Is How It Is, now meditate on that and accept it…that seems to me to have far more in common with fundamentalist Christian churches in terms of strict dogmatic adherence to the pronouncements of the church, than with any sort of religious group that genuinely values its adherents as freethinking, autonomous individuals.

    I am so sorry this happened. But thank you for bringing it to light in this manner. Is it all right if I link to this post from my blog and my tumblr? I would just like to see word of this spread as far and wide as possible, so that it becomes common knowledge what this group thinks of trans women and trans people and their allies know to avoid them.

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant, after all. Perhaps a nice bright beam of it will bring about some change.

    1. Jadelyn,
      Spread the sunlight, by all means.

      It’s clear the Temple leadership replicates the top-down model so many pagans reject when they move away from the religions of their upbringing. There seems to be a complete lack of egalitarian decision-making. From what Ashley said above in the comments, it’s the high priestess (Ava) who’s behind these discriminatory policies.

      Your phrase “Flimsy Veil” perfect summarizes the uneasy space the Temple is opening in its exclusionary practices, but I think that veil also covers the unfortunate ignorance at the root of the problem. That Ava finds transwomen threatening or sees them as secret agents of the male gaze invading the Temple, well, it’s sad. I think she believes this, and it’s her responsibility to educate herself.

      Your blog rocks, BTW.

      1. I do not take the term “high priestess” because I dislike the “high” and consequently the “low” concepts implied …
        I do not find transpeople threatening in any way. I have several friends who are transpeople. I have determined for myself and for the temple I hold the policies for that women are defined as those bearing wombs. Everyone has a right to freedom of religion, and that is the definition of woman in my religion. I honor all beings as created by Goddess and think there should be, as there is in Bali, many more genders to define human beings in an honoring way, rather than just “male” and “female” which is far too limiting.

        1. Ava. you’ve cited your “right to freedom of religion” in multiple comments here. But with all due respect, I don’t think anyone here is questioning that right (not that I’ve read, anyhow).

          You have a right to freedom of religion, but not to freedom from criticism. And it is criticism you’re facing here, not a threat to your right to worship as you please.

          Your arguments here remind me most of the arguments against same-sex marriage. Like them, you try to shield your controversial opinion behind a cloak of religion. And like them, the firm-as-steel rule you apply to exclude — in their case, “marriage is for childbearing,” in your case, “those who are born with wombs, the ability to carry on human life, the ability to bleed monthly” — suddenly becomes a loose and pliable “general” rule when it comes to those you wish to include (in their case, exceptions for infertile hetero couples, in your case, “exceptions for those women who for health and physical reasons do not bleed, or who have had their wombs removed due to surgery”).

          It’s pretty clear that you don’t have a firm, set-in-stone rule that tragically excludes trans women. You have a rule that trans women are excluded, and a post hoc rationalization about wanting to include only those with wombs (unless it happens to be a cis woman without a womb, in which case you’ll make an exception.)

          Having such a rule in your church is your right. But it’s still wrong.

      1. Sorry, Ava, but it’s my blog, and I am under no obligation to repost a defense of bigotry. I’m not a mainstream news outlet, to play the “give both sides a voice!” game. I will be linking to this post, because I believe in properly sourcing what I write about, and anyone who is so inclined can click through and read your comments here. Additionally, trust and believe, my readers do know how to work the google-machines, should they wish to read more of your responses than you’ve given here.

        But in reference to your request, especially considering that I work hard to be an ally to trans* people, no, I am vehemently NOT going to repost your comments against them in what I do my best to maintain as a safe space for my readers and friends.

  9. I’m not a trans woman either.
    I’m not lesbian, or bi…. I don’t even have friends of those persuasions…

    and this kind of discrimination… this kind of DOGMA, is why I will likely never be part of a coven, or pagan-church setting… power-hunger comes in all forms, and those who most want to lead are usually the ones least suited to it.

    1. Darlene,
      I think dogma is good word for what’s developing at the Temple, and I think if the structure of the Temple leadership functioned in a healthier way, we wouldn’t be seeing this.

      The desire for autonomy in my personal spiritual practice is partly what led me to paganism, and I tend to resist organized strictures. But there’s appeal in being part of a strong, established group. I’ve stung a few times now in my search for that, and I can sympathize with your reluctance to be part of a a frustrating or painful experience. But good groups based on consensus and mutual trust do exist. The Goddess Temple of Orange County just isn’t one of them.

  10. I do feel solidarity with transwomen because I have just a tiny little taste of what it may be like for them to not be recognized as Woman. It just gets me so worked up because in some spaces, despite being a “born woman”, I used to feel less than, or even an “unwoman” because I never saw myself represented in feminist memes. I rarely get an acknowledgement that women are going to encounter misogny in different ways, depending on what they look like or who they are. This is the comment that I left on the CoG Facebook page. It says everything I’m feeling about this issue:

    This, and other incidences, is exactly why I no longer support events held there, unless hosted specifically by my own coven, which is open to every body. I am not a transwoman, but I feel horrible for other-bodied women. Nature makes *quirks*, not “mistakes”. I had to endure the exact. same. comments. from people, except that woman was replaced with White, and Dianic was replaced with Bael.

    Dianic rites and mysteries is a tradition whose precepts are very clear, I get that, otherwise it wouldn’t be Dianic. But there is absolutely no good reason why a few of its outspoken followers need to engage in hurtful transphobic rhetoric to communicate their goals. It is beneath you, and it reflects incredibly badly on the rest of your group. Do you not see why this is hurting both transwomen AND women-born-women alike? We (many of us ciswomen aka “born-women”) are saying this is hurting us, YOU are hurting us. Also, Trish and others, just like a man has no business being an “authority” on what the female experience is, someone who is not trans has no business trying to define a transwoman’s identity either.

    A possibly more productive way to go about this instead of trash talking transwomen is to encourage the leaders among them to develop mysteries that include and celebrate exactly who they are and how they came to be. That kind of support is something that is missing entirely. Transwomen are not men, so they are no longer beneficiaries of patriarchy. You say they are “not women”, so clearly they are not beneficiaries of cis-privilege like us born-women either. So where are they supposed to go? I think paganism is a perfect landing spot for transfolk, and they need to be supported for the spirit within them. We shouldn’t be joining the noise of the patriarchy that tells them they are “defective”, when they are NOT. Goddess doesn’t make mistakes, She creates quirks. Shame on us as a whole for not caring for Her creations.

    1. Aine,

      “Someone who is not trans has no business trying to define a transwoman’s identity.”

      My feelings exactly.

      “We (many of us ciswomen aka “born-women”) are saying this is hurting us, YOU are hurting us.”

      Again, yes. I can only assume from your comment that the CoG has experienced some issues along these same lines (I’m not on Facebook).

  11. Thanks so much for bringing light to this issue…I’m annoyed that it has taken almost a month to get the word to me (via The Wild Hunt), but I’m glad to know it now, in any case.

    Of course, I’ve been involved in various ways with the conversations around this issue at PantheaCon for the past two years, and while I’m happy with the policies that the con’ itself has generated to alleviate these difficulties in the future–i.e. all gender-specific events are open to anyone who self-identifies as the gender in question–I’m still not happy with the fact that various “elders” are speaking on these matters as they are. It sounds like the women at the Goddess Temple just took the crib-notes from the one and made it into a sermon…and, based on what you’ve said above, in connection with Cybele, which to my mind is a gigantic sacrilege and the most severe screw-up imaginable.

    Though I am not a trans woman or a trans man, nor am I a man or a woman, I am a gender-diverse person, and so any exclusionary practice of gender that bases itself on thinking that some people are “really” one thing when they self-identify as another does specifically exclude and demean me. Thank you for taking such a public and difficult stance on this matter!

    1. Thank you for alerting me to the Wild Hunt link!

      Yes, this issue echoes the difficult conversations happening around PantheaCon. As in that situation, my hope is that the broader community will engage the Goddess Temple in firm and loving dialogue, as I am attempting to do here.

      The more I research, the more obvious it becomes that the Temple has dealt with this issue before, and it keeps resurfacing.

  12. My heart goes out to you… your experience parallels my own, with an organization I loved very much, for the same reasons you loved the Temple. It’s been just withing the past few weeks that I had to make the heart-breaking decision to leave, and yes it is very traumatic. While the organization I refer to does allow transwomen to attend, they do allow exclusion of transwomen from workshops and other activities at their annual festival. Your comments, and those of others who have mentioned creating something new… it’s been on my mind to seek out others of a like mind, and do exactly that.

  13. To all of you writing on this page … we would urge you to be careful about writing responses to a described event that you did not attend, assuming that the writer is describing accurately the events and statements to which you are responding. In this case, Tracie is not. We have never said, and never would say, and never will say that transpeople are “less than” women. No one is “less than” anyone else in our thealogy. All are equal in value and inherent worth. All. We said that we defined women as being those bearing wombs and that this American culture does not have enough genders to be honoring to all— that we attempt to force people into one of two boxes, male or female. For the full text of what we actually said, not a corrupted, twisted version of our words, please write us at and we will send you the complete and accurate text of the day’s message for your own consideration. We respect all beings, human and other-than-human, as they were created by Goddess, as they choose to create themselves, and always will. The Temple holds worship services for all genders, for womb-bearing women on Sundays and all genders on Wednesday evenings. We encourage those who are in this area to come to the Temple for yourself and see and feel our vibration of love and honoring of the true Goddess-given nature of all beings, rather than relying on second-hand versions of someone who is not reporting events and statements accurately.
    –Ava, Presiding Priestess, The Goddess Temple of Orange County

    1. Ava—

      Thank you do much for bringing your voice to this conversation. You seem, however, to have missed the point: the Temple’s “definition” of woman is offensive—both to those it includes and to those it excludes. How did the humans running the Temple come to decide on this definition? Whence came that right? How can the Temple be a safe space for women when some women are excluded from it? How can other women be assured that they till not, in the future, also be excluded?

      You said that you cannot choose to change your skin color, but the Temple’s “definition” of woman smacks of racism. “You’re special in your own way, just not special like we are.”

      I reject that you have any right to define woman.

      1. In order to have a temple for women, they have to define “woman”. Otherwise, its a temple for everyone.

        1. And what would be wrong, intrinsically or otherwise, with a definition of “woman” being left in the hands of the women who wish to come?

          (and even if there were, it doesn’t even come close to excusing a sermon explicitly disrespecting trans women – let alone doing so during a ritual supposedly to a Goddess known to have a very prominent order of transsexual priestesses. Though I am not one of Hers, I can guarantee Cybele was NOT pleased by that)

        2. Nicole,
          I respectfully disagree. They can define their policy of inclusion/exclusion. I think it’s inappropriate and dangerous for any group to define the personhood of another.

          To be clear, I support women-only spaces. It’s why I went to the Temple in the first place. I would have been disappointed to hear of the “no trans allowed” policy and withdrawn my support because it doesn’t fit with my values, but the Temple has taken the matter one step further by denying transwomen the right to define their own personhood.

  14. Ava,
    Thank you for visiting and speaking for the Temple in this conversation. I understand that you have strong feelings about this issue, but my experience is MY experience. I do not feel I have misrepresented the events of March 25 in any way. I’m not trying to “fight” or “rail” against you. The Temple was a safe place, a place of delight for me, until you broke my trust, and I have no motive other than the expression of my truth. Clearly, I am not the only person, the only WOMAN, who has had an experience like this at the Temple.

    Rather than encourage others to see my words and the words of other women as “a corrupted, twisted version,” why not look to your own practices and ask how you can better serve those who are coming to you in need? Your response cannot simply be, “that’s not accurate” when so many are expressing similar feelings.

    As for your other points, your own words speak loudest:

    Creating a space inside a body surgically does not make a womb. Woman is not made on an operating table by a man in a white coat with a knife. This is not reality. To be able to “decide” that you are a woman erases all that Woman actually is. It erases reality.

    1. “A *man* in a white coat with a knife”? That tells me buckets more about someone’s perception of gender, gender roles and human bodies than all the repeated disclaimers in the world.

      1. What Mordant said, plus, Ava, my understanding is that the surgery doesn’t include making a womb; it does include making a vagina.

  15. I’m very sorry you had such an experience. Unfortunately, this seems fairly common in “goddess” worship. (I put the term goddess in quotes, because no goddess I honor would ever treat a person such.)

    May you find the joy, the acceptance, the wisdom, the happiness that you seek.

    Blessings upon your journey.

    1. Thank you. It seems to be more common as a discussion, which I think is a positive indicator of change.

  16. RENA I support you 100 percent… is really sad the ignorant things that are said by “religious” leaders. I too have heard many hurtful things in my lifetime, whether they be by Xians, Wicca, Druid or Pagan. I support all “religions” and all peoples, be they GLBTQAS!!!! Keep upp the good fight ans stay alert…..if we don’t speak up at the injustices in this world, WHO WILL??? +pATRICK, osb, stl, dd

  17. I was brought here through a Facebook post and I have to say that I’m Heathen, not Wiccan. But I’m truly upset that this sort of discrimination can go on, especially in a community that otherwise believes itself accepting.
    I am not trans myself though I am queer. I consider my gender to be somewhere closer to in between though I identify as female because that’s whats in between my legs. I have and have had many trans friends. Many are pagan because their god/dess(es) provided them with the only loving and open acceptance that they found in their lives. If this massive step backwards occurs without challenge it beings down and besmirches the entire pagan community. I applaud people like you Tracie- for standing up for what’s right and giving a voice to those who are marginalized for something they can’t help. Not only in this case, but in the many other cases where transphobia has occurred.

  18. What a horrible, saddening travesty to see such mediaeval Christian bigotry infesting the pagan community.

  19. I am so sorry for the loss of your church and sacred space. I wish I lived near you so I could come over and give you a comforting hug. You are in my thoughts.

    1. Karen,
      Thank you. While I grieve the loss of the safety I felt in the Temple, this issue isn’t about me, you know?

      Recent comments make me hopeful there’s some possibility of reconciliation and healing within this community.

  20. Ava –

    I won’t comment on Tracie’s experience of her visit to your temple. I wasn’t there, so I can’t say. I can comment on your posts here on this page, and your repeated attempts to get everyone to see things your way, and your stated views on transwomen.

    You have every right to worship as you please. You have every right to define “women” as you please. Your definitions and rules are close-minded, bigoted, and offend me. I have a right to say that. Since it seems to matter to you, I will point out that I am a women, was born in this gender, and am gloriously happy to be a woman. However, I will defend until my last breath the right of others to decide for themselves who they are and how they want to present themselves. I got handed this body and this perception of self from the Universe and so did every other person, trans or not, cis or not, whole or changed, male or female or neither or both, AND YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO DECIDE WHETHER THEY ARE RIGHT OR WRONG, NOT FOR ANYONE OTHER THAN YOURSELF.

    Tracie – I don’t know you but I love you. First time we meet, I am going to hug you, if you don’t mind, and then I am going to buy you a round at the bar (cause knowing us we’ll meet at a con).

    1. Carrie,
      Respect to you! I admire your passion, and I look forward to meeting you as well.

  21. At last, a dialogue seems to be emerging. The threads are getting so tangled, so I’ll respond here.

    first, this, from Karen St. John:

    “Will you join us in letting us share ourselves and our stories? Lessen the fear and making peace?”

    And this, from Ava:

    “Let us please engage in polite, respectful discourse rather than sarcasm and hyperbole, which does not further understanding amongst us all.”

    It’s my feeling that peaceful discussion can move forward if everyone refrains from name-calling and discounting others’ truths, especially as to recollection of events that caused hurt.

  22. Ava-

    What I am wondering is this: There are Humans born in the wrong body. These people have the genetic code of the opposite sex but for some reason during development of the fetus the signals were misinterpreted. The Woman trapped inside of a Man’s body, and vice-versa, have many obstacles and struggles in life. This person had no option to prevent this from happening. In this case if the Transwoman could provide medical documentation proving that it was not a lifestyle choice but a genetic/chromosomal mistake that they were born with male genitalia would you consider allowing THAT person to join you?

    Just wondering your thoughts on this matter…

  23. Has anyone considered the opportunity for dialogue in a trans woman and cis woman only service, bringing together the two groups of women in learning and understanding?

    Of course it would in addition to the current natal women’s services, but having both available may provide relief might be found for those women like you, Tracie, provide a safe space for communication, and still later accommodate the apprehensions of natal women in need of healing in natal women’s space.

    Trans women need safe space from men, too. Trans women suffer horrific abuse from some men, and need healing, too. If nothing else, it will be nice to have solace.

  24. I have to chime in, following this post and comments, and stand EMPHATICALLY AGAINST ANY organization’s requiring medical documentation for admission. Medical documentation of “gender” and presence of “uterus”? I call gross invasion of privacy on this one, which last I checked was still a basic human right, upheld by more than one international body on human rights, the U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade, and is Constitutionally protected under the Privacy Act of 1974, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. (And doesn’t this level of misogyny and invasion of intimate privacy sound familiar to anyone?? Mandatory vaginal ultrasounds, anyone? Prohibition of birth control? Of whether or not to carry a fetus to term, anyone?)

    I know the Temple has not expressly stated it, but the possibility of “documentation” has been implied in Ava’s comments above, requiring “more information”. What exactly constitutes satisfactory “information”, when it is clear that fully grasping the extraordinary diversity in human gender, sexual orientation, psychological identity, and embryonic development is beyond the scope of any religious officiant, unless of the most deluded kind? Why, what would the Temple do if any “elder” should learn that there are women walking around every day and everywhere who have the outer bodies of women, the psychological identity of women, and all the internal organs excepting testicles, rather than ovaries? Every cell in such a body is XY. Oh my! What then?! Does the Goddess make (gasp) mistakes?! And… whatever is the point of all this DNA splitting??

    What I find most reprehensible in all of this is the utter misogyny that a group of women (women!) should perpetuate upon other women. If any group could offer healing, empathy, and coping skills to women abused by men (another nebulous definition!), would it not be transwomen? These are individuals whose own male bodies may have offered profound betrayal and anguish for a lifetime, no? Who may have been betrayed and abused by men themselves, by fathers, lovers, friends, strangers? And yet, they are apparently made of more resilient stuff than “women with wombs” are? Will we turn away women who are our sisters in all but a physical attribute? Is it fear of male abuse? Molestation? Are we serious? Do the officiants/elders of the Temple NOT see the vast hypocrisy of these views and seek to lead their congregants toward spiritual growth?

    And equally ridiculous, are we saying that any physical organ or attribute defines a person’s spirit, their mind? I suppose we might as well say women’s uteri migrate all over the body and cause hysteria, as (invariably male) physicians once supposed. What sort of spirituality is this?

    Thank you, Tracy W., Joseph Max, and others, for speaking truth to power, such as it is.

    While we’re sharing: I’m a doctor, writer, mother, and straight woman, not necessarily in that order, and not excluding many other and possibly contradictory labels, and some of those potentially depending on the weather.

  25. wanted to be sure that you saw this; Judith Laura (aka Medusa Coils) sent me.


    I am looking for letters from women for the “Women & Men” issue (SageWoman 84, winter 2012) on the topic of transwomen in female-only ritual space, (aka Z Budapest PCon ritual controversy) 500 words or less, NO HATE SPEECH on ANY side of the issue, please. If you identify as a trans- or CIS-woman and wish to be identified as such, please note that in your letter.

    Please email to by August 1. We will ONLY publish first names and last name initial (as in “Judy S.” or “Anne P.”) in the magazine unless you explicitly request otherwise.

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