I Grew Up in the Goddess Movement, but it is no longer home

I talk sometimes about how I was raised pagan; sometimes about how I was raised Buddhist. Both are true. My mother is Buddhist and taught me about Tara, played the 21 Praises of Tara and Wind Horses in the car for me, taught me the Om Mani Padme Om meditation with my very own mala…but she also introduced me to a range of religious and cultural traditions, including Judaism, Mexican syncreticized Christian+indigenous practices (Dia de Muertos), and the Goddess Movement.

My mother’s involvement in the Goddess Movement wasn’t really direct; instead, it was via her good friend, my “Auntie”, that she and I were part of it. (I have lots of people who are family members to me, though they are not related by blood.)

I spent a good portion of my childhood going to Goddess Movement events and learning how to read oracle cards and do energetic cleansings of auras from my Auntie. I learned drumming, and smoke-cleansing with bundles of sage, and Goddess chants from the women at these events. I learned that my body was sacred, that I was sacred, that I was not worthless like I kept on being told I was. I learned about love and sisterhood, and the women I was surrounded by were like mothers and aunts to me.

It was a much needed balm for me. It was empowering, and was in large part the basis for my religious path-seeking leading me to paganism. And for the longest time, I have felt safe among women who are members of the Goddess Movement, or who remind me of the women I grew up surrounded by.

This is no longer true.

Recently a bunch of people put together an IndieGogo campaign for an anthology called Female Erasure. It’s an anthology of radical feminist “essays” about how dangerous us trans folks are.

The people who are putting this together are some well-known anti-trans radical feminists, Dianics, and members of the Goddess Movement. I’ve been reading various things about this for a few days; it occurred to me I didn’t know who Ruth Barrett was. So I clicked on her name on FB, to learn more about her.

There’s a picture of her wearing a purple caftan-type thing with Celtic knot designs, holding a drum. She has wavy white hair.

She looks just like the women I grew up around. The same women who taught me I was sacred, I was worthy. The same women I came to view as a village of mothers and aunties, there to support my single mom in raising a fierce daughter.

The same women who now will likely reject me, tell me I am trash, I am not worthy, I am a liar and a perpetrator of violence against women. Simply because I started living my truth.

I started crying when I saw her picture. It was too much. Here I was sitting in chat with friends, discussing this load of crap, reading up on it, seeing yet another thing from the radfem/Dianic/Goddess Movement crowd that is promoting violence against me and people like me…and it’s being spearheaded by a woman who looks safe to me. Who looks like a woman I could have trusted when I was 10 years old.

When Gee Whatapest was doing her anti-trans song and dance, it didn’t feel like much of a personal betrayal to me, because she had never been terribly important to me, personally, in my journey, and there’s enough space between the Dianics and the Goddess Movement as a whole that I didn’t really feel any personal connection between them.

But I guess I have to face up that the Goddess Movement is not the safe place I thought it was. That the women who are part of it are not safe people for me to be around. That to them, I am not sacred. I am not worthy. I never have been.

And that is a betrayal. It cuts deep. I have started crying again while writing this post, and I don’t know how to even finish it off coherently.

It’s starting to feel like every single thing I ever thought was safe…isn’t. And I have nothing more to retreat to; if I want safe haven, I must build it myself.

I am so tired, and building safe haven takes so much work. I don’t know if I can do it.

Please, if you can, report the IndieGogo campaign for promoting violence. This is anti-trans bigotry. It’s a manifesto of hate. They want to erase us from existence. They want us dead.

And if you don’t feel safe getting involved, I understand. I honestly don’t feel safe writing this; the organizers have talked of their plans to doxx trans activists. I don’t even know if I’ll post it. Certainly others have said things better, and more coherently, than I am right now.

But it’s personal to me, so maybe that’s exactly the reason I should post it.

I’ve been kicked out of home. There is no place for me to return to. I can only go forward, and build myself a new home out of whatever I find on the road I am on.

33 Comments


  1. “Please, if you can, report the IndieGogo campaign for promoting violence.”

    Done, my friend.

    I have no words; I can’t imagine how you must be feeling. Your words pain me, but I know they can only be a fraction of what you’re actually feeling. I am so sorry that

    I want to be involved, but I don’t want to simply go to Cathy Brennan’s FB page and accuse her. I’ve been there, and the hatefulness is simply mind-blowing, and heart-breaking. Also, I’ve seen there how much of a professional troll she is… she literally doesn’t care. And on her FB page, on her territory, she has all the power and control over her followers.

    So I’m not sure what approach I’ll take. But I do want to be involved, because while I am pretty careful to keep my personal information private, if she does manage to get ahold of it, there’s not much she can do to hurt me. I’m luckier than others that way.
    Celestine Day recently posted…An Update on My School SituationMy Profile

    Reply

    1. Thank you.

      It’s hard to know what approach is the best in these sorts of situations. I certainly don’t know myself; I waffled on getting involved at all, because I knew it would draw attention to me, and I’m pretty paranoid about getting doxxed (not to mention dealing with floods of harassment can be very stressful, to put it mildly).

      And yeah, I just honestly don’t know what the best way to deal with this is. I wrote this post and eventually decided to publish it, and…I don’t know if that was the best way for me to get involved, I just know it was the only thing I could think of.

      And I always feel like I wanna do more stuff about gender and genderqueerness and how that all works for me, both religiously and non-religiously, but it’s hard to do, and then this stuff happens (like clockwork, I swear) and it’s like I use up all my gender spoons fighting against transphobia. Which is frustrating.
      Morag recently posted…I Grew Up in the Goddess Movement, but it is no longer homeMy Profile

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  2. sister, you are not alone, we are here, you know that, hold on, reach out, all is there. Just breathe into it, you’ll be fine.

    Reply

  3. Before I got to the part about reporting the campaign for violence, I’d begun reporting them for violating Indiegogo’s own Terms of Use. I included screenshots of this line from the campaign: “Transgender Rights: The Elimination of the Human Rights of Women – GallusMag” and several lines from the ToU, including:

    “Indiegogo is not a place for hatred, abuse, discrimination, disrespect, profanity, meanness, harassment, or spam. Do not:

    use the Services to promote violence, degradation, subjugation, discrimination or hatred against individuals or groups based on race, ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender identity…”

    I hope the message gets through to Indiegogo.

    Reply

    1. Me too.

      I also reported them for violating IG’s TOU, and rereading my post I should have been clearer about that being what I wanted them to be reported for — the fact that the campaign specifically violates IG’s TOU by promoting violence based on gender identity.

      I got an email saying they’d received my report and would look into it; will have to wait and see if anything comes of it.
      Morag recently posted…I Grew Up in the Goddess Movement, but it is no longer homeMy Profile

      Reply

  4. Explain your gender identity to us without using sexist stereotypes.

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    1. Who can ever do that? The only thing is pronouns. If we’re going to get down to ‘I was given a female/male pronoun’ rather than, ‘I chose a pronoun’, then maybe I shouldn’t have been allowed to change my name… People can choose a pronoun, it’s ok. Not hurting anyone.

      Reply

  5. So odd and serendipitous that I came across your article today.

    Last night I had a very vivid dream about reclaiming the Goddess. I was at a festival of some sort and there were man of us Crones who had small tents set up with different wares: arts and crafts, herbs, etc. In my little tent I had some Goddess sculptures and some that were made into little fountains. I had some hand made clothing and other odds and ends. I had closed my tent for a while to go walk among the other Crones and share wisdom and laughter. I was pretty disappointed,

    They could all name their herbs and tell me what they were for, they could point to a stone and give me its occult properties. They could recite spells and do all the things one might expect, but they were only repeating what they had memorized. There was no passion nor intent in their knowledge. Sadly, this is what I feel about the movement more and more. I didn’t realize it though, until I dreamed it.

    In the dream I walked back to my tent and gently touched all my creations with love. I spoke to the stones and herbs, determined not to see them as things or just as tools, but to embrace the magic in all of them. As I hope we would embrace the magic in each person who chooses this path.

    Don’t despair dear one. There is a place for you and hopefully now that you have spoken out there are many who will step up to help you find it.

    Reply

    1. “many” of us- not “man” of us.

      Reply

    2. Thank you. The response has been mostly positive so far, which has bolstered my courage.

      I agree with Celestine; your dream sounds very beautiful in its message. :)
      Morag recently posted…Gender AgnosticismMy Profile

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  6. “Goddess Movement”

    There’s plenty of people who embrace all women in what some might call the Goddess Movement (ie Paganism). Or what once was called the Goddess Movement and has evolved into Paganism.

    Hearing you about the TERF folks. Just concerned about the phrase, wishing it had been defined more clearly.

    Reply

    1. The Goddess Movement and Paganism aren’t really the same animal, though they are related. While the Goddess Movement has contributed to the Pagan movement, it didn’t evolve into Paganism. Neo-Paganism is a movement that has evolved out of a very large primordial soup of movements and beliefs dating back to the early 1800s/late 1700s.

      While I know there are probably plenty of people within the Goddess Movement who embrace trans folks, binary and non-binary, that doesn’t change that there is a problem with transphobia in the movement. Just like there are Dianic covens that are trans-friendly doesn’t change the fact that mainstream Dianic Witchcraft has had a major issue with transphobia.

      Couching it in terms other than referring to it as “the Goddess Movement” makes it easy for people to think “Well, that’s not my problem.” When it is — if someone is in the Goddess Movement and they aren’t transphobic, the transphobia present within the movement is their problem, and their responsibility. They need to call it out when they see it, and listen to trans folk on how to make things better. They need to work to make things better.

      Just like when I talk about disableism in paganism, I’m not going to say “Some pagans are disableist.” I’m going to say “Paganism is disableist.” Because it, broadly speaking, is, and it’s everyone’s problem. We all need to work to make things better and more accessible.
      Morag recently posted…I Grew Up in the Goddess Movement, but it is no longer homeMy Profile

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      1. To me, it feels like saying ‘Christianity has a problem with homophobia and transphobia’. Doesn’t mean there aren’t LGBT-affirming Christians (like my parents, and their pastor and his wife). But it does mean that an LGBT person is likely to be on guard when they see someone wearing a cross, and with good reason.

        Reply

  7. Sister, you have more support and allies than you know. Please believe this. We allies must work harder at using our priviledge as cis-gendered to be more vocal. You are loved and valued. Bless you for speaking truth.

    I propose we start an alternative Indigogo campaign for a different and much more beautiful anthology — focused on hearing more clearly yours and other transfolks lived experiences of the Goddess

    In solidarity and with much love.

    Reply

    1. Thank you. :)

      An anthology of trans experiences of the Goddess/goddesses would be beautiful, though I feel it would need to be spearheaded by a trans person, and there would need to be a lot of organization before we got to the crowdfunding stage. But I know right now a lot of trans pagan folks are discussing doing their own anthologies on a breadth of subjects, and I think more anthologies, the better, so adding it to the discussion is definitely a plan.
      Morag recently posted…Gender AgnosticismMy Profile

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  8. Reported. I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine what it must be like, with all the upheaval you have had in your life, to have a movement you grew up in turn on you too.

    Reply

  9. I have done a binding on Ruth Barrett and on all those in the Anti Trans Movement, that they will stop trying to harm all Trans People/Humans/Lives, and that they will see the light, the truth that others experience. So mote it be!

    Reply

  10. “Please, if you can, report the IndieGogo campaign for promoting violence.”

    I did report the campaign. I left a copy of my submission, here, in case anyone wants to copy/paste. Also, it clearly states in their Terms of Use that the following is Prohibited:
    “any items promoting hate, discrimination, personal injury, death, damage, or destruction to property; or any items (a) prohibited by applicable law to possess or distribute, (b) that would violate applicable law if distributed, or (c) that would result in infringement or violation of another person’s rights if distributed.”

    And here was my submission:

    “The following campaign is promoting hate and violence against the trans-gendered community:
    https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/female-erasure–2#/

    Here is how it has affected one such trans-gendered female:
    http://www.moragspinner.net/i-grew-up-in-the-goddess-movement-but-it-is-no-longer-home/

    Please remove the offending campaign immediately.”

    Reply

  11. “I don’t have to explain my gender identity to anyone”

    THIS.

    How horrible it must be, to be unable to handle the idea that people don’t have to live in a way that validates your own life.

    The question I keep asking people that put forth this bilge is “why do you believe you need to or have a right to define me?” I get answers that pretty much boil down to:

    * I need to know how to relate to you

    * I need to know how to treat you

    * I need to know what to expect from you

    If I suggest “what if you just define me as a human being and see what I do as an individual?”, you’d think I’d suggested they learn to juggle live hedgehogs and balloons simultaneously.

    What on earth does my doing what I like and what I’m good at have to do with them figuring out what they like or don’t like or can or can’t do in their own lives? Not one damned thing.

    Reply

  12. I hear you. Finding a safe space isn’t easy. Finding purpose is even harder.

    I first learned of Raven Kaldera on a Camp Trans forum, after attending two years. A trans man married to a trans woman, who started his own branch of Paganism and wrote a book on the sacred third, Hermaphrodeities. His many books gave me new inspiration after dropping out of Paganism for many years.

    Now I write stories for Norse goddesses who have none on my blog. Because theirs were erased from history by the male writers who didn’t care about unmarried goddesses. Among them I found the ones that were not hetero-normative. And some that were a bit more like me.

    These are the stories I wished someone else had written for me. Failing that, I will write them myself. No one will tell our stories for us. No one else can. TERFs do not own my narrative, and I will not allow them to take it from me.

    We must become the mothers of our own myths. And may the High Ones help us.

    Reply

  13. Strength, peace, comfort, perseverance, and above all love to you. Don’t let their shade dim your light — when all you see surrounding you are shadows, it is because you are the bonfire. As frightening as this is for you, to have lost what was comforting, and as difficult as it is and will be to build something new, perhaps this is your Goddess telling you it is time to be a beacon to others? In any case, my kitchen always has room for one more — if you ever find yourself in need of a cup of coffee in the midst of a zoo (3 kids), call me up.

    Reply

  14. This saddens me. I got my degree in Women’s Studies in the mid ’90s, and I well recall the veiled contempt of the strident academics for those of us who aligned with the goddess. The fear that if we acknowledged spirituality, we wouldn’t be taken seriously. And from the other direction, the faint censure of the Dianics, that if you were straight and preferred inclusive circles of both genders, you were somehow letting down the cause. All of that made me really embrace a solitary practice, though here in the northwest I have found gender a non-issue.

    When my ex-husband came out as a trans-woman several years ago, the pagan community was accepting and s/he was still invited to circles. (S/he doesn’t particularly care about pronouns.) Looking back, I can see that, as a man, his inner spirit was always female – I simply didn’t know what I was seeing then. But I would have no problem with her joining all-womens’ circle, just as I had no problem with him in our mixed one. It’s clear to me, and to most who know him, that regardless of looks or the place in the transition process, he is female. I have not kept up on the radical feminist politics; they don’t interest me much, and feminists of newer generations, even less so.

    So it was a shock to read this, and to learn that the same women who fought so tenaciously for the right to be lesbian goddess worshippers….are now spouting a regressive anti-trans philosophy. They are certainly not the mainstream of the goddess movement, and as far as I’m concerned, have tarnished their legacy as grandmothers of the movement by aligning themselves on the wrong side of history, much as opponents of marriage equality have done. Goddess bless you on your path, and you would be welcome in any circle I would ever attend.

    Reply


  15. Thank you for writing this. I also grew up in a community where Goddess spirituality was very strong. As an adult who now identifies as genderqueer and non-binary, I can look back on my childhood and understand with more clarity what it was about those experiences that were alienating for me. At the time I only knew that I wanted badly to feel like a part of that community, but that I never completely comfortable there. I know there are people back home who would be supportive of me, even now, but when I read about Ruth Bartlett I have much the same reaction that you do. It scares me. Wishing you support and safety.

    Reply


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