Z. Budapest's rhetoric against trans women and pushing them out of women-only spiritual spaces is still fresh in my memory. It still makes me ill just thinking about it.
That's just one symptom of a problem that women's spirituality movements suffer from: the constant worship of the uterus and association of womanhood with that reproductive organ. Instead of concentrating on everything else that a woman is, instead of acknowledging that women aren't just vessels for life and that not connecting with that is not a bad thing, it's been pushed for as long as I've claimed the label of 'Pagan'.
Much of my paganism has been derived from Neo-Wicca. Perhaps other areas of the pagan umbrella don't suffer from this issue as much as Neo-Wicca and its offshoots, or even as much as witchcraft as it's popularized sometimes does. Maybe this stuff is more noticeable to me because I do not connect with womb-centric pagan thought.
I can understand why the movement clings to this way of thinking: glorifying the womb, and motherhood, is seen by many to be sticking it to the patriarchy, as if the patriarchy itself doesn't just see women as walking wombs -- whether they possess that particular set of reproductive organs or not. It's as if the movement forgets that, in our patriarchal world, motherhood is the epitome of a woman's worth.
Shouldn't we be working harder to acknowledge that this is not what makes a woman valuable? That her humanity and everything she accomplishes as a person does just that?
This line of thinking violently excludes trans women from the circle. This gender essentialism states that, to be a woman, one must have a vagina and a (working, we assume) womb. Not every woman has a vagina, not every woman has a uterus, not every woman has ovaries, not every woman is capable of reproduction.
And yet...that's the focus. "Maiden, mother, crone" relies on the assumption that there's going to be a mother stage. It's been argued that the "mother" stage isn't necessarily literal and doesn't necessarily refer to childbearing — in the same breath as women being referred to by an ability to grow a human inside their own body.
This gender essentialist thinking has been used to push trans women out of the Neo-Pagan movement, out of Neo-Wicca, out of women's spiritual spaces and out of life in general. It's no wonder the average life-span of a trans person is 30 years, growing shorter if that person is a visible minority.
Another version of the "Maiden, Mother, Crone" analogy is mentioned by Lasara Firefox Allen in her book Jailbreaking the Goddess. She focuses on a five-fold model that follows women through different phases of their lives without focus on reproduction: beginnings, potential, creation, mastery, and wisdom.
This is the direction we should be taking.
Instead of making feminine divinity about reproduction, let's make it about the individual. Women are multi-faceted. Our spirituality should be, too. We are human, and as humans we develop in different ways with different life goals and approaches. For some, motherhood is the end goal and focusing their spirituality upon that aspect of themselves is important. For others, it's creativity and the act of creating beautiful works of art or inspirational words. What's sacred is different for everyone.
Part of the Neo-Pagan movement is this idea of belonging and inclusivity. By focusing on the misguided ideas of biological sex — which don't fall in line with nature and its mosaic of reproductive methods — we fail to be inclusive of those that need that belonging the most. We're doing what we accuse other religions of doing: shoving people into small, rigid boxes and roles without acknowledging the differences that make them amazing.