A few rambling thoughts that I shared as a comment over at Galina Krasskova’s blog:
This issue is sensitive and challenging, but it is also very important. To be upfront, I am cisgender however the frustrating amount of time that I spend on the margins of American society due to others of my identities – Black, woman, bisexual, Pagan – has called me to share my perspective on this issue.
When I consider Pagan Eldership and what it means, to my thinking it is one part acknowledgement of a person’s substantial contribution (i.e. service) to Pagans, and it is one part recognition of a person’s significant relationship with divinity and/or deity. Elders serve the community and they serve the gods. They do both. Elders lead, guide, and teach and they also conduct devotions and public rituals and the like for the gods. The Elder role has many moving parts, all of which should be appreciated and respected by the community. The Elder has been entrusted with the spiritual security of their community as well as the integrity of traditions. But I think it is problematic to imagine that the Elder is not also required to offer appreciation and respect to the community as well.
An Elder who marginalizes, discriminates, minimizes, and invalidates members of the community they serve is in violation of the social contract that the position of Elder depends upon. The spiritual security that the Elder is charged with is in danger in this situation. Do all women, cisgender and transgender, not have a right to feel safe and welcome in the spaces that they support with their time, energy, and devotion? An Elder who rejects the community that they lead, guide, and teach within has opted out of an important aspect of the agreement. An Elder so delinquent in their duty needs to be confronted, and if they are unwilling to return to right relationship with the community then they may be deemed no longer fit to fill the role of Elder. I agree with you that Elder means something and communities need them but if the community is rejected by them, where does that leave us? Transgender women are women and to leave them out is to leave all of us out. Would it be acceptable for the Elder to exclude me as a Black person or a bisexual person? One cannot lead, guide, and teach women without leading, guiding, and teaching all women. The Elder in question agreed to serve the community and then failed to do it. This is a professional issue and a social issue in addition to being a religious one. It is all of them. I think it is problematic to cherry pick the issues. The failure by this Elder in any of these areas presents a significant problem in all of these areas.
I agree with your point that witch hunts are unacceptable. The personal witch hunt example you gave based on your deity relationships and practices as ordained by Them indeed constitutes a witch hunt in my mind. The transphobic Elder in question here doesn’t strike me as the victim of a witch hunt because her personal beliefs and practices are not in question beyond the degree to which they interfere with her ability to fulfill her role in the Pagan community and in Cherry Hill. This Elder seems to me to simply be the recipient of the transgender community’s overt refusal to be mistreated and invalidated within spaces that have been presented as inclusive. As I said above transgender women are women and to reject some of us is to reject all of us. If the Elder had a theological reason for said rejection, good for her, but she would still be unfit to serve in community space where that theological view demands that she deny a portion of the community due services. That kind of socially, spiritually, and professionally unacceptable behavior is deserving of a candid conversation, and a boot if necessary. The Elder’s willingness to serve the gods and serve the community within the expectations of inclusivity espoused by Cherry Hill Seminary is of critical importance.