This is my witness of the silent meditation led by T. Thorn Coyle to protest the Z Budapest ritual at Pantheacon 2012.
[Note: I use the term “cisgender women” or “cis woman” to distinguish from “transgender women” or “trans woman.” Both groups may identity with the word “woman.”]
8:33pm I arrive in the City Foyer, a long hallway on the main floor of the DoubleTree hotel, and make my way toward the San Martin room. I find a corner in which to sit. I feel the strong need to write down all of what is happening.
Beside me sits a man with a spinning wheel in front of him. He pedals gently and spins the roving into thread.
8:35pm I watch a coordinator of Pantheacon show Thorn the statement prepared by Z Budapest. Queens in white face and glitter makeup gather and shimmer while cisgender women line up to enter San Martin.
Thorn speaks to the coordinator.
“My aim is just to keep the energy smooth.”
The coordinator responds.
“It’s an imperfect world. I’m doing my best.”
The coordinator exhibits genuine concern for those gathering behind Thorn.
“We are on your side.”
A group of three cisgender crones sit beside the entrance to the presentation room; one on the floor, and two on chairs. The one on the floor sits with legs crossed, eyes closed, and focus directed inward. She rocks, chanting and muttering words under her breath. It appears that the three are holding space.
Thorn walks back and forth in front of the growing group of protestors, instructing them on “keeping the energy smooth.”
8:40pm The cisgender woman continues to rock, her voice more audible than before.
Thorn stands, faces the protestors.
“Let’s all take a breath together. Find your center.”
I write down: For Thorn, protest is magick. Leading is the art of expanding the boundaries of sacred space.
8:42pm The number of cisgender women in line for the ritual: 9
The number of people sitting in protest: 22
I stand in the corner, watching.
Coordinators ask if anyone wants water. I see no one take water. The protestors sit and kneel behind a barrier of white tape on brown and beige conference hotel carpet.
The crones continue to pray and chant. A cisgender woman standing at the front of the line holds beads in her hand, repeating what sounds like a Vedic chant.
“Take a breath and enter silence.”
Both sides are holding space, seeking peace in the face of the other.
Thorn places a sign before her. It reads: All Bodies Are Sacred.
8:45pm A processional of The Amazons & Living Temple of Diana lines up, their faces marked with black paint around their eyes, their attire coordinated as if for ritual. They hold drums.
All are holding space.
I see one cis woman stare at the silent protestors with a bemused smirk. Others in line with her look at the floor.
8:47pm The crone rocks, eyes closed. She lifts her hands up to the sky, to her left, to her right; entreating. The cis woman in line continues to chant with her mala.
8:50pm More gather to kneel beside Thorn.
The Amazons sing.
“We all come from the Goddess…and to her we shall return…”
Their voices fill the space. The begin to walk from the far end of the hall, between the protestors and the ritualists, moving slowly and intentionally.
At the end of the processional of singers is Z Budapest.
8:51pm Someone at the front of the door is attempting to film **, and there is an argument between her and the Pantheacon coordinators. I overhear something about “consent to be filmed.” This argument is the only palpable conflict yet. Until this point, it has felt like two groups holding space.
But, the energy feels different now.
The singing continues.
8:54pm Z Budapest speaks, and the camera person has been given permission to film her. She is offered her prepared statement, which she takes, but she does not speak from the paper. She asks the Amazons if they are present to support her, to which they respond that they are present to support all; they are “in between.” Lady Yeshe Rabbit says,
“There is no them; only us.“
Z looks at the group of men who have gathered behind the cisgender women. They are led by Hyperion of The Unnamed Path.
“There are my guardians,” Z says to them.
“No,” Hyperion responded to her. “We are only here to bear witness and hold space.” ***
Z begins to speak off script, and the following are excerpts from her spoken statement.
“I am not your enemy….
I understand the new consciousness….it’s very Aquarian.
I love the transsexuals… interesting costumes… very colorful…”
I am struck by the fact that she is a person, where up until now she has been spoken of primarily as a symbol.
I hear one of the protestors begin to weep.
“Every minute a woman dies in childbirth…EVERY MINUTE A WOMAN DIES IN CHILDBIRTH. And from there, it just goes on….
I am your mother’s mothers….
I am the elder on whom you can build revolution!“
9:00pm Z Budapest turns and enters the San Martin conference room.
The singers leave as they came.
The Pantheacon coordinator faces the protestors, and reads them the prepared statement which Z chose not to read.
Then, silence. Stillness. The only sound, the spinning of the wheel and the chanting of the crone.
9:12pm Glenn Turner counts the number of silent protestors in attendance. There are 89 present.
9:15pm Thorn walks up to the front, and chants the OM. The protestors break their silence.
“I love you all so much. It’s an honor to sit with you…”
The protestors begin to rise, many embracing. Thanks are expressed. Someone passes out girl scout cookies. They silently move through the hallway, away from the sounds of the cis women laughing, chanting, calling the quarters.
There is a spirit of relief and exhausting.
The crones stay behind, and continue to hold space.
*** UPDATE on 2/23/12 When first published, this post did not contain a quote from Hyperion. I was unable to make out the exact words he said to Z, and because of this I did not include his statement in my notes or in my account of the event. I appreciate his coming forth to clarify, because it is important to understand the motivations and intentions behind all those present (as best we can).
Thanks for this. It really gives a lot of clarity. People had said Z. got off script. I’ll be interested to see a video to get the full statement. Suffice it to say, it’s incredibly sad.
Thank you for reading it, Fire Lyte. I do hope that the video becomes available, although I’m not sure that it would help the conversation while the wounds are still fresh. A transcript, perhaps, but not the full video. Z is a bit of a fireball when she speaks. She explodes with energy, and I’m afraid that her passion may only incite more conflict online.
With that said, it will be what it will be. If I do catch wind of the video, I will do my best to share it here on the blog.
The video was taken by Bobbie, Z’s wife, so my suspicion is that if it is published at all it will be on Z’s blog or her Women’s Spirituality Forum.
Thank you for this collected, unbiased transcript.
I was especially glad to have this transcript for one piece: “I love the transsexuals… interesting costumes… very colorful…”” — when I heard Z call trans women’s clothing *costumes*, that infuriated me, and went very far to show her lack of understanding. My wife, in a tank top and a simple skirt, day to day clothes on a cis woman, but on her it’s a “costume”? Made my blood boil.But I couldn’t find anyone else that seemed to have noticed that choice of wording, and had begun to wonder if I’d misheard or misremembered it.
That was Z’s whole point – to make peoples’ blood boil. Her only intention here was to stir up hate and discontent and attract attention to herself.
Z is the Kanye West of neopaganism.
Thanks for the comment. Your comparison is quite amusing, and probably accurate to a point. With that said, I’m not certain I agree that Z’s sole intention was to antagonize. She may be fiery, but my witness of her speech led me to believe that she also is idealistic about her tradition, her purpose, and her role as a leader. She may be misguide — clearly there are arguments being made to say as much. But, I don’t know that she’s so one-dimensional.
Regardless of her intentions, Z’s choice of words was downright _exquisite_ in terms of invoking every possible negative stereotype against trans women without being overtly bigoted. One literally could not imagine a more perfect use of dog-whistle rhetorical baiting.
Thank you so much for the clarification about the videographer. It was a missing detail that was bothering me. I have updated the post with a note at the bottom about Bobbie.
Those words were triggers, for certain. I understand your anger. I wonder what your perspective is on what we should do when someone misspeaks like that. To you, does Z’s use of those terms speak more to her ignorance, or to maliciousness? Do you think trans women could seize this moment as an opportunity to step up as leaders and teachers for people who are still living in what you might see as an outdated paradigm?
I noticed too, and flinched.
Thank you for your lovely witnessing.
Thank you, Jhenah. I appreciate you paying the site a visit, and it was a pleasure to meet you at Pantheacon. Bright blessings to you and the Sisters of Avalon.
Thank you so much, Teo, for witnessing. I wasn’t there, and this whole situation infuriates me, so it’s very helpful to me to get direct perspectives from people who were there.
Thank you, Sonneillon. My hope is that a simple recounting of the events that took place might allow people to understand a little more the complexity of the situation.
[…] lost amid this storm.ADDENDUM: Teo Bishop from Bishop in the Grove, who sat with the protesters, has written up his experience of the evening. Working from notes taken that evening. It is matter-of-fact, and essential reading for anyone who […]
I have to chuckle, because I know there are people would will say this protest did not accomplish anything because there was no pushing, shoving, physical contact, or slurs hurled.
I does my heart good to see how “Pagans” can protest peacefully. Of course, I’m sorry it had to happen and for the cause of it, but I’m also proud of how everyone reacted during the protest.
It was a beautiful thing to witness, even in its complication and tension. I share you feeling of pride.
Blessings to you.
Thank you, Teo.
You’re welcome, Jason. Thank you for paying visit to the site.
Thanks for being a witness. I found your observations to be impartial and accurate. I also got a chuckle out of the comment about the Queens in whiteface and glitter. It never occurred to me that you might not be familiar with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. From the San Francisco website: “The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence® is a leading-edge Order of queer nuns. Since our first appearance in San Francisco on Easter Sunday, 1979, the Sisters have devoted ourselves to community service, ministry and outreach to those on theedges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment. We believe all people have a right to express their unique joy and beauty and we use humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit.” I’m a Portland Sister. Anyhoo, thank you for your posts, and it was
truly a pleasure to meet you!
It was a pleasure to meet you, too, Sister Krissy. I was aware of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, but I opted to use the language that I did because it was a direct quote from my notes. For some, a mention of their title would suffice. But for you, I wanted to paint a picture that now only were you present, but you were fabulous!
Thank you for sharing this information, and for paying a visit to the blog. I hope you come back and share your perspective. We’d love to have you.
The only comment i’ll make here is that i’m extremely disappointed in the organisers of Pantheacon and the insensitivity of Rabbit and Z. This type of ritual never should have happened in light of last year firestorm over a simular ritual.We as a community are still dealing with fallout from last years Blood Woman only fiasco and still coming to terms w/ our diverse membership.At a convention themed Diversity and Tolarance this don’t make any sense.I also wish to thank Teo for witnessing this protest
Thank you for your comment, Kilm. I’m not sure that I feel comfortable with placing blame in any one direction, mainly because the situation is so complicated. Putting on a conference of this magnitude is no easy task, and neither is appeasing all those in attendance. Politics is difficult, even on a small scale, and when you factor in how many different perspectives there are in this situation it becomes exponentially more difficult.
I will say this: I did witness, as I wrote about in this post, that the conference staff was sympathetic to the protestors. They were in a very difficult position, and I have a feeling — just a hunch — that they will be engaged in fierce dialogue over the coming days and weeks about how to handle the Con next year.
Teo, bless you so much for such a great impartial recounting of your experience. Even for those of us not in attendance, this issue has been overflowing with emotion, and it’s gotten a bit thick. What I have garnered from various personal accountings of the experience at the protest is what I hoped it would be – a communication of changing attitudes and values in our communities.
Clear, open dialogue about the issue is needed, but I think going forward we would all do well to take the focus off of Z, but keep it on the desire to change our direction and work more towards inclusion, unity, and mutual respect. It’s clear to me that we as a community will no longer sit quietly by while any of us are subjected to discrimination and hate speech – and that’s where we need to be.
Again, thank you, and bless you a lot.
Thank you, Alan, for commenting on and sharing the post. It felt important to offer — as best I could — an impartial account. It was an emotional experience for me, and I don’t proclaim to be a journalist, but it felt inappropriate for me to seize this moment to preach the case of one side or another. You are right — what needs to happen now is a discussion about the ideas, not just the figureheads.
I encourage you to read a post written by Cara Schulz published on Agora. The unpacks some of the reasons why this subject is so heated, and why many have a hard time approaching concepts like inclusion, unity, or mutual respect. Here’s the link:
This whole thing makes me sad. Thanks for keepin’ us filled in and I hope P-Con was otherwise a good time had by all.
Thank you, Dave. Pantheacon was transformative for me; affirming in ways that I could not have expected. I have more stories and experiences to write about in the coming days!
“Z looks at the group of men who have gathered behind the cisgender women. They are led by Hyperion of The Unnamed Path.“There are my guardians,” Z says to them.”
I want to add my perspective on this: Z not only looked at them, but gestured to them with her right hand. (Many of the silent protestors were meditating with eyes closed and didn’t see the gesture; this led to some misunderstanding.) She was immediately countered by one of the men who said emphatically, “No, we are here to bear witness.”
Thank you so much, Ambar, for your clarification. Hyperion has come forth as well to make known his intentions, and I have updated the post to indicate what he said.
Blessings to you.
Hi this is Hyperion – founder of the Unnamed Path – and I want to clarify something and confirm what Ambar Diaz said here. While Z did indeed gesture to me and my brothers and said “These are my defenders” I immediately corrected her and said “NO! We are here only to bear witness and hold space”. I do not take either side in this demonstration. I hold the void of the center – the point of cooperation and healing. We are not Z. Budapest’s defenders. We were silent witnesses. http://www.unnamedpath.com
Thank you, Hyperion. I appreciate the clarification from you and Amber. From where I stood, the sound of the chanting from within the San Martin conference room drowned out your voice. I did not clearly hear what you said, and so I did not write it down in my notes. I’m glad you’ve made that known here. Out of respect for you and your brothers, I will update the post to include this information so that there isn’t any confusion.
Blessings to you for your silent witness, and blessings to you the development of a tradition that reaches so many men-who-love-men. You are doing a great work.
Powerful, Amazing account, very well written. Had I been there, THIS is the ritual I would have wanted to attend. “No sounds except the spinning wheel and the chanting crone” everyone sitting in silence… thank you for witnessing in this hallway, and for sharing your view with us.
Thank you for your kind words, HearthSpirit. I’m glad to know that the post resonated with you, and that my account served a greater purpose. It did feel like a ritual all on its own. That was perhaps the most profound aspect of what I experienced.
Blessings to you.
I am deeply appreciative of your skillful and dispassionate reporting here, Teo. There’s been a lot of heat; I’m grateful for a bit of Light.
Thank you for this comment, Cat. I’m glad the post was relevant to you, and I appreciate your kind words.
[…] A not rhetorically uncharged eye-witness report of which can be found on Ted Teo’s Bishop in the Grove and an Open Letter to Pantheacon Organization by Miniver […]
[…] witness of the meditation outside the ritual can be found here. The accounts of the situation that I personally found most thoughtful and clear were those of […]
I appreciate the clarification about what was said by Hyperion and others. Since I was sitting down the hallway I could not hear what was said. I have to admit that I was VERY confused by the procession and the song choice and many of us felt that they were supporting Z and suspect there are still, like me, some who went away a little muddled over it all. I may not agree with the attempt to hold space in this context, but I do honor your right to act as you see fit.
I would like to add this link as yet another viewpoint to consider as it says it better than I could.
Thank you for your comment. I’m glad that you’ve joined the conversation here, and thank you for sharing the link. I’ll give that a read.
I’m curious – you write,
“I may not agree with the attempt to hold space in this context…”
What did you mean by that, exactly? Do you feel a conflict with the way that people held space between Z and the silent protestors? Did that feel like a kind of betrayal to you, or inherently unjust?
I ask these questions out of respect, and with a sincere desire to understand your perspective.
I think she had the right to do as she willed. People instead of forcing people to do things their way should just do something else. I believe she had the right to limit her event to genetic women only as some of the transgendered had to create their own ritual. Freedom.
Thanks for taking the time to comment, Jml11us, and for reading this post. My point in writing it was not to promote one argument or the other, but to paint as clear a picture as I could about what it looked and felt like to be there. This situation isn’t quite as simple as we might like it to be, and I think there’s value in sitting with the complication.
Again, thank you for your comment.
[…] of the Unnamed Path – and I want to clarify something and confirm what Ambar Diaz said here.While Z did indeed gesture to me and my brothers and said “These are mydefenders” I imme…“. I do not take either side in this demonstration. I hold the void of the center – the […]