Open Letter to Cherry Hill Seminary

(The following is modified from the letter sent by Lupa Greenwolf, which she has given others permission to C&P into the CHS contact form, if they feel it was adequately descriptive of their own feelings.)

To whom it may concern,

I am appalled that vocal transphobe Ruth Barrett is still a faculty member at Cherry Hill Seminary, but as a trans person, I cannot say that I’m surprised, as my experiences in the pagan community is that many will turn a blind eye to transphobia because “religious freedom!” — ironically unaware of the fact that this is the same claim made by Christians who wish to discriminate others based on sex / gender or sexual orientation, or simply persecute pagan and polytheist religions. As you may be aware, already, via social media circulations or other sources, Ms Barrett is currently at work compiling an anthology of essays that promote gender essentialism; more information is available at http://www.femaleerasure.com/. Choice titles from some of these essays include:

“Transgender Rights: The Elimination of the Human Rights of Women”
“In The Absence Of The Sacred: The Marketing of Medical Transgenderism and The Survival Of The Natural Child”
“Transparent: Spitting On Michfest’s Grave”
“Destruction Of A Marriage: My Husband’s Descent Into Transgenderism”

This book is also set to feature work by none other than Cathy Brennan, a notorious transphobe who has a long and verifiable history of doxing and otherwise harassing women, both trans AND cisgender, for the apparent “thought-crime” of advocating for trans rights in a manner that involves arguing with her online. Brennan also has made friends with the Religious Right, who make no secret of their hatred of the pagan and polytheist communities, making this collaboration a potential danger to not just trans CHS students, but also CHS itself. (Also, I want the record to show that Cathy Brennan is a fake Goth.)

Ruth Barrett has been exceptionally vocal in calling for transgender women to be excluded from women’s spiritual spaces. This anthology only reinforces the idea that women’s spirituality and the pagan community are not trans-friendly. As a trans male (FTM spectrum) and gender anti-conforming male-gendered person, I feel I can safely assert that my experiences in the pagan and polytheist community have not always been the most pleasant — ranging from having my very identity questioned for simply the gods I’ve devoted significant worship to, to being casually outed to several email lists (when people still used Yahoo Groups) and active harassment from other polytheists and pagans. The experiences of trans women, especially in the Goddess / women’s spirituality community, are often reported by trans women as being objectively harsher than my own; many trans women view the Goddess worship and women’s spirituality communities as actively hostile toward trans women, even communities with no clear or even vague ties to (the other notorious pagan transphobe) Zsuzsanna Budapet’s Dianic lineage.

In Barrett’s email call for support for a crowdfunding campaign for this anthology, she made the ludicrous decision to open with the line “In response to the horrendous bullying I survived last year by transgender activists, I was compelled to organize and publish a pioneering anthology to raise greater public awareness about how gender identity politics and ideology affects us all”. (A screen shot is available upon request.) What she really seems to mean is “I don’t like transgender women telling me what I’m doing hurts them, so I’m going to organize other people who support my bigotry to produce more anti-trans material”; as fashionable as it has become to cry “bullying!” in order to silence one’s opponent, the fact of the matter is, it is VERY easy to observe evidence of the fact that Barrett simply was never bullied — her opinions were challenged with facts, and now she’s using her position to lend her fallacious ideas legitimacy in spite of growing scientific studies that the “opinions” being presented in her anthology are highly unqualified and divorced from reality, to put it gently.

By keeping her on as faculty, CHS certainly appears to support her message. Furthermore, with her presence CHS alienates transgender pagans, as well as those of our cisgender allies. Higher education is a place for learning and, yes, debate, but faculty are also expected to not be open bigots. I feel it safe to assume, to say the least, that you wouldn’t have an open white supremacist on your faculty, yet you have a loud and proud transphobe there. I feel it safe to assume that you would not approve of active and explicit homophobes on the faculty. Your director was, according to her CHS profile, “proud to have been present in July when the Battle Flag of the Confederacy was removed permanently from the S.C. State House grounds”, so why is she tolerating the presence of another sort of bigotry in her own educational institution? My experience has a trans person has taught me that it is most likely grave indifference to the trans community, and I would really like to be proved wrong on this.

Thank you,

— Ruadhán J McElroy

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.