What Became of the Kerfuffle

the Goddess Cybele

In late March, I posted an open letter to the Goddess Temple of Orange County concerning a Sunday service which focused on the Goddess Cybele and the delivery of a controversial message: the Temple services for women are not for transgendered women. When the post was picked up by The Wild Hunt nearly a month later, directing attention to my post, a volatile and intense conversation began, which included input from women both trans and cis, as well as some prominent voices from the pagan community and a few feminist bloggers. The conversation went even further into the issue when Ava Park, the presiding priestess of the Temple, joined in.

I appreciate every person who spoke up on this issue.

Two very important things happened: Ava defended her actions and the policy of the Temple in a way that made her stance very clear, for better or worse, and participants in the discussion pointed out the main problem with her stance, that while the Temple has every right to set women-only policies, it does not have the right to define “women” for others.

Second, after a great deal of back and forth, a call for reconciliation went out (twice) from commenter Karen St. John:

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

“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?”

There’s been no response from the Temple, at least in this forum. I, for one, would like to see a dialogue of this kind. I also invite those invested in the issue to continue the conversation on this post. I’ve closed comments to the previous in the interest of clarity.

I invite those same people, including Ava, to participate in discussion of the issue in another forum. SageWoman magazine is THE journal of Goddess culture, and editor Anne Newkirk Niven contributed this invitation to the post:


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.

If you’d care to add your voice to this conversation, email SageWoman (editor2 AT bbimedia DOT com) before August 1. Niven has indicated that only the first names and last initials of contributors will be published in the magazine unless you explicitly request otherwise.

10 thoughts on “What Became of the Kerfuffle”

  1. I do plan on writing something for Sage Woman, although I haven’t specific clue just yet.

    1. Karen,
      I’m glad to hear that you’re thinking of writing something, and I’m grateful to SageWoman for creating that forum. It’s an influential publication, and a variety of voices need to be heard on this issue if there’s going to be healing.

  2. How wonderful that you have identified a need for a transgender church. Having found such comfort in Ava Park’s unique temple and congregation you must be excited to have found such an exemplary example upon which you can model and build a church of your own to fill this need. It may take many years of planning, submitting legal documentation, finding a building, financing, business plans; but I have faith that as Ava continued on over many years, you too, will bring your mission to fruition should you believe in it enough to work for it. There is an abundance of diversity, there are many places of worship. You have found your niche and now have a vision ahead of you to bring your own passionate house of worship into reality. I wish you well.

  3. Patricia,
    I thank you for your kind words, but I don’t feel the need to create a transgender church is what I’ve identified at all. While the Goddess Temple certainly is unique, and I recognize and respect the hard work of the Temple, I wouldn’t call it “exemplary.”

    I don’t think its founder and sustainers have a particularly healthy method for dealing with challenge and change, and the Temple’s past record (available to anyone searching the internet) demonstrates that. What Karen and and others have called for is dialogue, not marginalization.

  4. I do think a ministry that addresses the process by which trans women and cis women can find a common approach to the Goddess in an aggregate womanspace, would also serve to lessen misunderstanding within the communities of Her Daughters. I can only see our Goddess sorrowing at our strife and mistrust. She offers so many blessings, some of which may be celebrated by her natal Daughters, some of which may be celebrated by her trans Daughters, and so many more which may be celebrated together!

  5. I do hope that you’ll write for SageWoman, Tracie W. Your passion as a ciswoman for equality for all women is a wonderful point of view (I know all your readers have been blessed by it) and I know that SageWoman would benefit from that wisdom.

    1. I have not! After the initial blow-up online, I’ve heard nothing at all. I think the Temple just hoped the discussion would disappear. I know that their website changed to reflect a separate service available for everyone, but that only reaffirms their stance.

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