Goddess Temple Kerfuffle Part III

You may recall my post last year about the Goddess Temple of Orange County’s discrimination against trans women. This week, I received news that the Temple is changing their name.

According to a recent post by Medusa Coils (also known as Judith Laura), the Goddess Temple of Orange County will soon become The Goddess Center of California. Along with a new name, a room-by-room refurbishment of the Temple itself and a website reboot, the Temple plans to re-examine its policy regarding the inclusion of trans women in the Temple.

This inclusion currently means the Temple offers a once-a-month service “for all,” but “women-only” spaces continue to be closed to trans women. Central to last year’s controversy was Temple founder Ava Parks’ insistence on the right define “women,” and to exclude trans women on the grounds that they are not true women, not “women-born-women.” This stance denies trans women the right to define their own personhood in relation to the Temple, and frankly, the unsatisfactory solution of services “for all” continues to feel like an empty gesture when both cis and trans women were calling for dialogue.

The new information posted by Medusa Coils comes from a subscriber-only e-newsletter  (that I signed up for before the Kerfuffle but strangely have never received), and it includes the following call to reconciliation:

“Over the years we have had a bit of controversy over our definition of ‘woman’ and our ‘women only’ policy for many events… Beginning this year, it is our intention to identify, name, formally recognize and honor these as-yet unacknowledged genders, creating a sacred place for each in our community.Those (of any gender) who are interested in being part of this unfolding and groundbreaking work, please contact us. You will be invited to join a committee, the intent of which will be to guide The Goddess Center’s gender policies for the greatest good for all.”

It should be noted that this is hardly the first time the Temple has experienced gender trouble. Will something change for the better this time, or is this just a facelift? Will this call go out to the general public, and will the Temple reach out to those who have disagreed with their policies in the past?

I’m a bit skeptical.

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14 Responses to Goddess Temple Kerfuffle Part III

  1. Karen St. John says:

    I think it might be better for transgender women to identify ourselves for ourselves, and approach our Goddess as her daughters on HER terms alone. She knows and loves us for who we are. She tells us we must follow OUR own spiritual path, and I think our glory is in acknowledging who we really are: Her transsexual Daughters.

    Presiding Priestess Ava Park is very protective of the rites she enacts for her sisters. I admire her for that. I have come to realise that her sisters in the Temple need healing for the centuries of envy for their reproductive power, and denigration for moonbleeding. I am in awe of the mysteries of creating and nurturing life, and I know the best sister I can be is in supporting the journey back to those mysteries.

    I would ask of Ava Park and her Sisters in the Goddess Center to just let us follow our hearts in our own mysteries and journeys. Smile with us, and please share our joy while we unfold OUR mysteries; we will all dance in our shared joy, different Sisters of our Goddess.

    • Tracie W. says:

      Thank you for sharing these words, Karen. Agency, self-definition, power on individual terms: this is what Goddess spirituality is about at its heart.

  2. Medusa says:

    Tracie and Karen,
    Thanks for the thought-provoking conversation. In my post that Tracie refers to (and when I first read the GTOC newsletter), I couldn’t come to the conclusion that, as Tracie writes, “the Temple offers a once-a-month service “for all,” but “women-only” spaces continue to be closed to trans women.” In fact she doesn’t say exactly who would now be included in their definition of “women,” although I guess you could infer that from her reference to “many genders” and past history at the Temple. I guess I’m hoping that Ava’s leaving the door open to more inclusion. But I can understand your skepticism.
    Judith Laura, blogging as Medusa on Medusa Coils

    • Tracie W. says:

      Medusa,
      Thanks for stopping in. My statement about the service “for all” comes from the Temple’s web calendar, which shows that these services are currently being offered. I haven’t attended services of any sort. Frankly, I am not comfortable entering vulnerable sacred space at the Temple with Ava and her priestesses after what I experienced last year, and I feel the “for all” gesture is not satisfactory.

      I am hopeful for more inclusion but remain skeptical that this is a rebranding attempt to sweep some of the past away.

      I’m also curious how reconciliation will be accomplished if the Temple is reaching out in such a limited way. I’ve also observed no mention of this important news on the Temple’s very active Facebook page.

    • Tracie W. says:

      Medusa,
      After a closer read, I think I better understand what you’re saying here. It seems to me that the Temple is continuing to reserve the right to define “women-only” spaces, but I hope to be corrected on this!

      This from their calendar: “Join us for goddess spiritual services every Sunday–first, second and third Sundays for women, “Fourth Sundays” women are welcome to bring their families –all genders and ages welcome.”

      Fourth Sundays sound more inclusive, but the Temple has been setting aside time “for all” in a way that is inclusive to men for a while now, usually during weekday evenings. Inclusive Sundays seem like a relatively new offering.

  3. Karen St. John says:

    Medusa..let me first say that I love your nom de plum! (Serpent is my totem.) I think that TG/TS women especially are just starting to sort out that our journeys are unique and beautiful in their own right. I want to see my trans sisters look inward and not feel ashamed or othered. While I would welcome the insights of priestesses such as Rev. Park and others on their own journeys…in fact, I would treasure them…I think we need our own spaces defined by ourselves. As far as I am concerned, you are all more than welcome to dance with us as we discover and share our Daughterhood.

    After a great deal of reflection, I have abandoned my own skepticism, and replaced it with a joyful pragmatism. We do all come from the Goddess, but we are from many, many streams. I will merrily splash and dance with all upon returning to Her!

  4. StarShadow says:

    I am now somewhat involved in the Kerfuffle. I attended Sunday services at Goddess Temple only one time, and I think it’s very powerful and healing. I think there is value in creating sacred space for women only and I hope this continues. With that said, Trans Women ARE women. Trans is not an indentity as much as it is a destination. By denying them inclusivity you are denying their womanhood.

    When I read the statement in context with comments made in Kerfuffle I&II, it sounds to me not at all like they are considering inclusivity. It sounds like, as one poster put it, they have identified the need for a Transgender church and they want to create a kind of third rail for Transwomen. They want to identify, name and recognize…what exactly? Something different and separate from the term “woman?”. What would the need for that be? “creating a sacred space in our community” why? You have a space already. Do you need a separate but equal space? This statement gives me a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Many women do not care to apply the label Trans to who they are, nor do they identify as Trans. Will they be outed? Will they need a birth certificate?

    There is a group currently gathering to call attention the Temple exclusion policy at Slutwalk on March 10. It’s called “A Woman is a Woman”.

  5. Tracie W. says:

    StarShadow,
    I agree that the Temple experience and women-only spaces are powerful and valuable. When I attended, I felt free to express and open to power in a way that was truly meaningful and transformative to me. I felt like I’d found a spiritual home. It was very painful to have that snatched away; I felt vulnerable and wounded in a space that had been safe and healing. I’m too uncomfortable to go back right now.

    I agree that the intent of the Temple going forward is “seperate but equal,” and I can’t support that unless transwomen call for it themselves. I suspect that the Temple is simply responding to outcry in order to maintain control and save face, and clinging to their insistence to define women as they see fit. It’s hard to be hopeful.

    I’m interested in hearing more about the Slutwalk and spread the word, if you’d care to share that information here.

  6. StarShadow says:

    Basically the counter protest started the Goddess Temple OC’s discriminatory policy towards Transwomen was brought to the Slutwalk OC organizer’s attention and those chose not to deal with it. Our issue is not with Slutwalk, which is inclusive of all women, it is with the chosen location of their event, The Goddess Temple OC.

    Here is a link to the event on FB:

    http://www.facebook.com/events/449795561758075/?ref=

    One of the organizers is my son, Milo Finn.

  7. Tracie W. says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I’ll be traveling the day of the event, but I’m curious to know how this event will go forward, and to what outcome. Perhaps other people who’ve posted here will be interested, too.

  8. StarShadow says:

    Update: it’s appears the SlutWalk organizers are just as upset about this as are. They are changing the location to one that “doesn’t stick to the binary definition of womanhood”

    • Tracie W. says:

      While I’m not on Facebook, I viewed some of the discussion there about the issue, and I’m glad the Slutwalk organizers are taking the Temple’s discriminatory practices into consideration. Thank you for sharing this, and please thank Milo for efforts to raise awareness.

  9. Jennifer says:

    I hope they reconsider their new females as distinct from women policy as well. The word woman carries with it, the implication of a social construct. By superpositioning biology and sex over social agency, the author is correct, the temple negates any spiritual philosophy at all. It’s all nature, and no nurture. So who needs to be a spiritual practitioner, if that’s the case? In more than one way, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t provide a “safe space” and make it unwelcoming most days.

    • Tracie W. says:

      Thanks, Jennifer! I haven’t heard any new information, but I do hope that the Temple leaders will have a change of heart.

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