When the Excluded Exclude

Caveat the First: I was not at Pantheacon. Instead, I lost five pounds in 24 hours due to food poisoning.

Caveat the Second: I do not self-identify as pagan.

Apparently, there was a public ritual held there, specified as being for cis-women only. And a silent protest ensued.

Oh, how this makes me itch in funny places. I know all too well about being excluded by those who consider themselves also excluded. And it leaves me sad, tired, and not a little bit bitter. Granted, my issues fall along disability, rather than gender, lines. But I cannot help but wince a bit at this.

As I’ve mentioned before, I once had a middle-aged transvestite man point and laugh at my visible disability. And I was gobsmacked that somebody who has likely been harshly judged for their external presentation did not see a problem with harshly judging how I present. Compounded by the fact that this happened at a science fiction convention — a space that itself purports to not only be inclusive, but a haven for those excluded by majority culture.

I’ve seen statements that people need to “toughen up” and not be so sensitive about this. For myself, that’s about three steps away from being told it is my job to be a poster child for disability or chronic pain. And if you don’t know my thoughts on that by now, you need to go back and read this blog from the beginning.

When I am simultaneously told that X space is a big tent, yet that I need to stand outside because there’s no room for me, it leaves me sad, tired, and not a little bit bitter and confused. When it comes from people who simultaneously trumpet about how they are excluded by mainstream society, this only compounds it.

And I just don’t understand it. Seriously, use small words. Make me smart. Because…I’m at a loss to understand how a space claiming to be inclusive is OK with excluding.

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5 Responses to When the Excluded Exclude

  1. J. Decker says:

    I wasn’t there, and I was (realizing I too am not party to every detail) pretty upset when I did hear about it, but here’s a little of what I’ve sensed/been able to gather.

    It’s clear that part of this particular ritual’s continuing existence relates to a particular leader in the community, who many have historically had a strong respect for. I think the discussion surrounding this this year, and the well-attended sit-in outside the discriminatory ritual, were in some ways attempts to address the situation in a more community-minded, “get everyone to agree” sort of style.

    I applaud the goal (if I’m right), I in no way applaud the result. Or …. hmmm.

    Here’s the thing. That the ‘con organizers continue to allow this ritual to be held as a P’con event a year after the issue was first raised is damaging and hurtful to at least some members of the trans community who have spoken to me. It *continues* to be damaging. It asserts the privilege of this self-described community leader over one of the smaller, less-powerful fractions within the pagan community. It is not, in a word, okay.

    This is not in any way to criticize those who attempted in good faith to show their feelings in other ways, to work towards longer change. The descriptions I heard of the sit-in and the meeting were deeply moving. I applaud, strongly, what they were able to do, and I feel bad coming down like a load of wet socks to say what I’m about to say, given the power and unity those people apparently showed.

    But it was not enough.

    People are still being oppressed and hurt as a result not only of the ritual organizers, but as a result of the ‘con organizers allowing this ritual to be part of the ‘con. I am at a complete loss to hear any explanation, save for the respect for one’s “elders”, for the organizer’s inaction in leaving the ritual out of this years convention. And that’s not good enough, when the marginalized are continuing to be marginalized.

  2. Adotnon says:

    I think that there are some people who just feel a need to look down on others, for whatever reason. I think this may run stronger in marginalized groups because they want their turn, dammit!

    It’s not an excuse, but possibly an explanation. I would hope more people would examine themselves and try and figure out just WHY they feel the need to exclude, especially when they have experienced it themselves.

  3. JMixx says:

    From a psychological perspective, this sounds like a defense mechanism known as “Identification with the Aggressor.” It is seen most often in the case of abused children who grow up to be abusers themselves. Why in the world would anyone who is physically, sexually, or verbally abused do that to another person, when they know how it feels? Let me see if I can craft a short answer. Ego defenses are processes we humans use to maintain our sense of identity, to “keep ourselves together.”* Often they are unconscious. Sometimes, ideas and feelings are so contradictory that they threaten that sense of self. How can an abused child process “I hate my parent because he/she makes me scared for my life,” and “I need my parent to survive and I love my parent” all at the same time? In the case of this defense mechanism, “I need and love my parent” often “wins” out of necessity. So, what to do with the hate/scared part? Hating someone you love can create guilt, and it’s damned difficult to rely on someone you think might kill you. To make hate/guilt and fear go away, the person finds a way to identify with the abuser, ultimately believing that “If I were him, I would do the same thing he did.” Often it involves justifying the abuse: “It wasn’t that bad,” “He would never really have killed me,” “Everyone does it; it’s normal,” and the real biggie, “I deserved it. I was bad.” Sometimes the identification goes so far that “I would do the same thing he did” becomes “I do the same thing that he did.” Note that none of this is part of a person’s awareness; the point of a defense mechanism is to “un-make” something that creates so much anxiety/fear/rage that it is threatening.
    I can’t pretend to know for certain that this is happening in this particular instance. I can see where the conflict between “people(insert modifier as needed: male, medical, neurotypical) have discriminated against me; I hate them!” and “I must survive in a society dominated by those people; I need some of them,” or “I love some of those people,” might be large enough to trigger this defense. It’s not a terribly effective ego defense, either; the hate/rage/guilt/fear are all still there, being squashed away by the forced belief, “That’s normal. It is deserved. It’s not that big of a deal.” Sadly, the stronger the feelings are, the stronger the defense has to be to keep them at bay. (Some abused kids engage in wildly dangerous behavior, despite the risk of consequences from the abusive parent, to support the “I deserved it; I am bad” belief.)
    So I have learned that I cannot craft a short answer. I hope it is helpful nonetheless.

    *Worry over “keeping ourselves together” psychologically is a primate thing. A dog will run from a feared person one day and bite the bejeezus out of the same person the next day, without worrying about his own psychological integrity. It’s one of the pluses of being a dog.

    • thatwordgrrl says:

      Yay for brainmeat geekery! (You do know that I worked for a psychiatric publication for six years, so I just love this stuff!)

      • JMixx says:

        LOL “brainmeat geekery”!! Never thought of it that way before; it’s just what I do every day, and it’s fascinating. I was describing some neurological circuitry to my Dad not long ago, and I noticed his eyes glazing over. I said, “Aha! You have that stunned-bunny look that I’m sure I get when you talk about Special Relativity! Now you know–*this* is my version of Special Relativity!” (Dad’s an engineer, and a really smart one at that. He and I are just wired completely differently.)

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