Weekly Update: 12 June

This Week

I am happy to say, dear readers, that we have another great week in store for you. Early in the week we will have two pieces from writers you know and love: Bastard Children of a Slaughtering Empire by Rhyd Wildermuth and then “Evil is Necessary!” The Suit of Spades and Human Existence by Dr. Bones. Then at mid-week, we will bring you New Landscape Radicals by Kevan Manwaring, in his first piece for Gods & Radicals. Rounding out the week is more new work from familiar writers: Tolpuddle Martyrs by Yvonne Aburrow, a poem by Hunter Hall, and Gersande la Fleche’s third piece for Gods & Radicals, An Interview with Ida Toft About Plant Spirits.


Some of the articles that caught our eye this week include:

  • “I Refuse to Serve as an Empire Chaplain”: U.S. Army Minister Resigns over Drone Program
    “We have in our nation an established religion. It’s not Christianity. Jeremy Gunn calls it American National Religion. It has—consists of the unholy trinity of governmental theism, military supremacy and an understanding of capitalism as freedom. And as a religious leader, I feel it’s my prerogative to differentiate myself from this state-sanctioned religion and speak from my authentic tradition in a way that resists these national policies. And that’s what I’ve done in offering my resignation and stating quite clearly that I will not serve as an empire chaplain. I will not lend religious legitimacy to this state-sanctioned violence.”
  • Meaningful work not created, only destroyed, by bosses, study finds
    “Bosses play no role in fostering a sense of meaningfulness at work — but they do have the capacity to destroy it and should stay out of the way, new research shows. The study by researchers at the University of Sussex and the University of Greenwich shows that quality of leadership receives virtually no mention when people describe meaningful moments at work, but poor management is the top destroyer of meaningfulness.”
  • Forget Hunger Strikes. What Prisons Fear Most Is Labor Strikes
    “Incarcerating the highest rate of prisoners in the world comes at a cost, so states have increasingly used the prisoners’ own labor to lower prison costs. Prolonged work stoppages threaten to increase these costs and create a more expensive prison system—some states, like Alabama with its high budget deficit, simply can’t afford that.”
  • Detroit sides with anarchists over developer in land bid
    “A self-described “anarchist housing collective” where members live a communal life sharing expenses as they occasionally host live music shows has successfully outbid a land developer trying to buy lots next door for new apartments. The anarchist group, known as Trumbullplex, owns a pair of Victorian-era houses and a performance space at 4210 Trumbull in the Woodbridge neighborhood, next to the lots. For  decades, the group has used one of the city-owned parcels as a gathering spot with greenery, fruit trees, a fire pit and parking for a painted blue school bus. Many of the collective’s 11 residents consider themselves anarchists because they don’t believe in government and yearn for a stateless society. The group says it has tried for years to buy the lot, but the city said the land wasn’t available. The group has made the case on social media that the side lot really belongs to the community and serves as a gathering area for neighbors, particularly during the summer months.”

2016 TERFwars: Transphobia Is Patriarchy

photo by Alley Valkyrie. https://www.instagram.com/alleyvalkyrie/
photo by Alley Valkyrie. https://www.instagram.com/alleyvalkyrie/

This past week, an all-too-familiar struggle reared its head again in the pagan community: the struggle against transphobia.

Gods & Radicals is not a monolithic, fully like-minded group of people, although some would like to represent us as such. A collective is a place where people work together in all their individuality — not a gathering of drones. We vary in opinion on certain issues, and also in the way we voice our opinion. There are, however, common denominators and non-negotiables: transphobia or any manifestation of essentialist othering is something we will never accept. It is a question of human decency.

As a cisgender white male who was raised in midwestern suburbia, transphobia is something I had to overcome, and it has taken me a long time to get where I am now. Admittedly, as such I am a little uncomfortable writing about this topic. For many years I would say things like, “I will always support a person’s right to identify however they wish, but I just don’t personally get why someone would be transgender” and would think that the struggle against transphobia “isn’t my fight.” And while these statements were earnest at the time, now, a few years later, I can see why I still had more work to do to unpack my prejudices.

First, I can never assume that my understandings, wants, or desires should apply to everyone. This seems obvious in retrospect, but it has an insidious way of sneaking into our blind spots. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I came to understand that any person who actively undermines the strict categories & dualistic thinking imposed by Capitalism and Patriarchy should be seen as heroes and warriors in our struggle. Once I adopted this view, and given the astounding violence that transgender folk face as a matter of course in their lives, I knew I could only offer them welcome, love & support as a staunch ally in our combined struggles. And these struggles continue for all of us; every day we must work to overcome transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, white supremacy, classism, and all the other oppressive enchantments of patriarchy and capitalism within ourselves, in our communities, and in the world.

This week’s trouble began when word emerged that a new transphobic book was being published by Ruth Barrett, an instructor at Cherry Hill Seminary. The book contains writing by Cathy Brennan, a transphobic activist & lawyer who has shown a willingness to go to great lengths, including using her privileged access to the US legal system, to harass and silence her critics, people who have called her out on not only her transphobia itself but also her practice of doxxing some of the most vulnerable people in patriarchy.

An example of these hate crimes manifested when Alley Valkyrie posted an open letter on Facebook, protesting both the book itself and also Cherry Hill Seminary for not publicly distancing themselves from this violent behavior. Not only was Alley’s open letter removed from Facebook, but she was banned from Facebook for 24 hours! In a show of solidarity, and to ensure that the important issues Alley raises in her open letter are seen more widely, we have republished the letter below.

There was also some fallout & further analysis of this situation as the week progressed. Ruth Barrett resigned from Cherry Hill Seminary. Peter Dybing wrote a good article in support & solidarity, and then later found himself under attack when Cathy Brennan “contacted my work and sent them horrible misinformation about me in an attempt to get me fired for standing up for the transgender community. This personal attack is beyond what any human should be willing to do. She and Ruth have proven to be a danger to the entire community. Please share this widely, Pagans need to know the violence they are capable of.”

Yvonne Aburrow’s article We Are Rising was another show of support, reminding us that “Gender is not a binary, not even a spectrum, it is a vast glittering field of possibility, many gender, many hues, many different expressions of being and love.”

Lastly, I would refer readers to Sophia Burns’ article from earlier this year on Gods & Radicals, It’s All About Sex: Feminism, Paganism, and Trans Exclusion:

“Cisgender fellow Pagans, I’m writing for you. I don’t want to make yet another moral appeal to support us because it’s just and virtuous to do so (although it surely is); instead, I want us to consider, together, what anti-trans Paganism means for us all. If you’re a cis woman, I have as much a stake in ending patriarchy as you – and transphobia only exists because it’s part of patriarchy. If you support full inclusion for trans women as women, you’re helping to reject one of patriarchy’s more violent ongoing projects! And if you’re a cis man, I have the same message. Transphobia is patriarchy, and patriarchy is capitalism, is homophobia, is racism, and is every other structure of exploitation that keeps the ruling classes on top. “An injury to one is an injury to all” is a statement not of moral solidarity, but of sociological fact. Propping up discrimination against someone else just strengthens the powers that oppress you.”

An Open Letter to the Pagan Community

[Letter by Alley Valkyrie, republished here, original facebook post deleted]

I want to first make it brutally clear that this is the last thing I want to have to put forth today, especially while away on pilgrimage. But as a pagan and a cis woman, I cannot and I will not remain silent on this matter, and I will not stand by in the face of violent targeting that is being enacted in my name.

Many of you know who Cathy Brennan is. If you don’t, please spend a moment or two on Google and educate yourselves. In short, she is a notoriously transphobic radical feminist who for years has targeted and doxxed those who speak out against her, especially trans women. This is not a matter of ‘free speech’. Cathy Brennan literally endangers the lives and personal safety of those who oppose her.

Cathy Brennan is friends with Ruth Barrett, long-time Dianic priestess and instructor at Cherry Hill Seminary. Last year, when Ruth made several public transphobic comments, many called on CHS to fire her. CHS refused to do so, citing academic freedom as their reason for standing by her.

In the past few days, many in the community have publicly spoken out about Ruth’s new anthology, ‘Female Erasure’, a blatantly transphobic anthology that includes the writings of Cathy Brennan.

And in response to that public outcry, Cathy has publicly targeted several members of the pagan community via her FB page. So far she has named and targeted David Salisbury, Peter Dybing, Devin Hunter, and Deirdre Hebert. Cathy has also publicly stated that she will “gather information” on men (and in her world, trans women are ‘men’) who speak out against her.

In case there is any doubt as to what that means, she is planning on doxxing these folks.

If not for Ruth Barrett and her friendship and collaboration with Cathy, Cathy would not be targeting members of our community, which makes Ruth complicit in this violence as well.

For anyone who needs proof of this, Cathy’s FB page will be linked in the comments below. Cathy has a large and notoriously rabid following, and her actions are literally putting members of our community in danger.

I also recognize that by posting this, I will also likely become a target. But it is fear that silences those who would otherwise speak up, and I refuse to bow to that fear in the face of such a threat to those I know and love.

This is no longer a matter of ‘academic freedom’ when it comes to Ruth Barrett’s affiliations with Cherry Hill Seminary. This is violence. This is the deliberate targeting of beloved and respected members of our community. And by standing behind Ruth, CHS is now also complicit in such violence.

I am calling on Cherry Hill Seminary to publicly disassociate with Ruth Barrett immediately. And I am calling on every person that I personally know who is affiliated with CHS to resign from their positions unless CHS publicly disassociates with Ruth. And if CHS chooses not to do that and instead hides behind ‘academic freedom’, I am calling for for the pagan community as a whole to publicly disassociate with and boycott CHS.

I will say flat out that having to take this step causes me much pain, as there are many brilliant members of our community, some who I know personally, who are either staff, faculty, or members of the BOD of Cherry Hill Seminary. I want to make it clear that this is not a personal attack on you. But I will not stand silently and hold my words as they pertain to an institution that supposedly represents, teaches, and ordains priests in my community if they choose to protect a staff member who is complicit in the targeting and doxxing of members of our community. I sincerely hope that those who I know personally will demonstrate their integrity and do the right thing in this matter.

I repeat: this is no longer an issue of ‘free speech’ or ‘academic freedom’. This is a matter of violence, of endangering those who dare to speak up. What Cathy is doing is absolutely equal to the actions of the Gamergate folks. Such actions destroy lives and put people in literal danger.

One more time: to protect Ruth is to be complicit in such violence. Period.

I also ask for protection from those in my community who are able and willing to provide it, as I know that this call-out will not go unanswered.

In the name of Love, Power, and Justice,
Alley Valkyrie

(If you feel safe in doing so, feel free to share this widely. If you don’t feel safe in doing so, I completely understand.)

7 thoughts on “Weekly Update: 12 June

  1. Transphobia and gender essentialism are just the mirror image of patriarchal and kyriarchal oppression.

    The patriarchy told us that being sensitive and nurturing and all that was “feminine” was worthless, while being a warrior and all that was “masculine” was good.

    Gender essentialist “feminists” try to tell us that it’s the other way round – “feminine” good, “masculine” bad. How is that even remotely helpful?

    Break down the gender binary!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. So grateful that this organization is willing to stand united on affirming trans lives. The ground this community builds through its writing and discourse feels solid in a world of slippery slopes… I always feel fed and renewed by the ideas exchanged in this space and it is a huge service. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Update:

    When I saw a recent email going around encouraging folks to lend financial support to Cherry Hill Seminary, I wanted to remind everyone about the whole Ruth Barret/Cathy Brennan situation. As far as I could find, though Ruth resigned from CHS, there has been no public announcement of dissociation, or of apology, from them about their relationship with her, nor anything about revising their policies to be more inclusive of transfolk.

    I posted to facebook with a brief reminder about CHS’s history, and stated that, so long as they remain complicit in their silence, I will not be supporting them. As a Reclaiming Pagan, I cannot, in good conscience, do so.

    Soon after that post Cathy Brennan found, and began harassing me on twitter. Her first step was to try and erase my queer identity. I am gender queer, pan sexual, and currently in a consensual open marriage with a hetero man. She immediately called me a “fraud”, saying that, because I’m in a hetero marriage, I am therefore hetero myself–nevermind that my other partners are not. Her tweets escalated to include more personal attacks, going so far as to try and shame me for being a sex worker.

    I began posting screencaps of our exchanges on the original facebook thread. Apparently Cathy was still stalking that thread, because she then got me suspended from facebook for 24 hours, in the exact same way she did to Alley Valkyrie.

    Cathy has since also posted about me on her instagram, being sure to include as much personal information as she currently has about me (which, thankfully, is only that I live on Long Island). She has also tried to get anyone who posted in support of me on the facebook thread banned for one inane reason or another. I am unsure whether she has some kind of in with facebook; if not, she certainly has learned to use the system as an incredibly effective silencing tactic.

    I am still currently banned from facebook. I have screencaps of all of my interactions with Cathy, including her attempted erasure of me, and her malicious, personal, attacks, should anyone wish to see them.

    Given the lengths to which this person is prepared to go, it is imperative that the Pagan community stand firm in our support and inclusion of transfolk, now more than ever.

    Any and all support welcome. You can find the relevant threads and convos on my facebook page and twitter account (Lilah Quinn & @LilahQuinn).

    I will not be silenced.


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