2021 Year-End Review and Community Drama

So this may sound like a weird New Year’s Eve/reflection on the year post at first, but here we go anyways. Obviously the past two years have thrown a wrench in many things, including things like being able to have events with other people. Or at least, assuming that you, like me, are prioritizing safety and trying to not create a superspreader event.

Given that 2019 my focus was on bringing in an income and vending at geeky events vs. Pagan events, and that most Pagan events have been canceled or online only during the pandemic, it’s been a really long time since I’ve had the opportunity to do ritual with other people, or be involved in in-person Pagan conferences and festivals.

Overall, this has meant that I have not been involved with very much in the way of Pagan community conflicts. Since the pandemic began, I am getting almost zero messages from people dealing with abusive group leaders or other related Pagan community issues.

In the before-times, there was almost always someone messaging me because they were struggling with some ethical issue or group dynamics or a Pagan leader doing awful things.

While, on the one hand, I’ve been sitting here a lot missing the Pagan conferences and teaching, doing ritual together, and having the chance to connect with folks…I also have found myself grateful for the downtick in the kinds of issues that people generally come to me for help with. It’s not to say those things haven’t happened, it’s just noticeably less.

The major exception to any of this was earlier this year when I spoke up (again) about a certain abusive shop owner who has targeted myself and several other people. I spoke out about his event, and in doing so, I was targeted by him and his allies, and eventually my partner and I were both doxxed.

This all came to mind earlier today when I read a FB post and some comments, and I realized (based on the context/tagging in the comments) that a local-to-me Pagan had blocked me. She isn’t someone I really knew, but she was someone who was very angry with me when I spoke up about an issue in a local group.

I posted about it on FB when it happened; basically, there was a man who regularly attended this group who had a history of sexually harassing women, and some women had finally tried to speak up about it and then Problems Ensued. I backed the folks speaking up, and I became the villain in the scenario. The group imploded, and as best I can tell, some of the folks that were trying to sweep the harassment under the rug seem to blame me, at least in part, for what happened to the group.

Was I a catalyst? Yes. Did I cause the ethical failure that led to this whole situation needing to be outed? Nope.

I also just found out that an acquaintance died; I didn’t know her well, but we both were in the unfortunate club of being victims of my abusive ex. This was the ex that I used to teach Pagan classes with and run community events with in Chicago. He used his position as a teacher and leader to get new partners, and had a habit of lying to prospective partners and indicating that he and I (or whomever he was with) were poly.

I always have felt somewhat protective about the women he duped in part because I helped build his name and reputation. At least, before I spoke out about him once I figured out what was happening. Even though I barely knew her, I definitely grieve every time I hear about something bad happening to the women that he tricked, lied to, and harmed.

Being reminded of the whole thing also reminded me that there are probably a hundred people on my FB friends list that still have him friended. That there are still people out there that don’t consider his actions against me and others to be a reason to cut someone out of their lives.

Why is this a new year’s post?

Because I have realized that I have so much less patience for all of that kind of BS. That, after 15 years of trying to teach leadership skills, I still see the same abusive stuff happening and people still bending over backwards to sweep it under the rug.

That, after years of writing and thousands of words, I’m writing about the same crap. It’s a big part of why I haven’t blogged in so long; I feel like, what’s the point? People are going to continue to do this stuff.

Those of us that call these things out and speak up about it are attacked because we said something about Your Favorite Author or that group leader you really like and trust and they’re so charismatic and fun to be around.

I see you. I see those of you that continue to support problematic authors. I see the publishers that continue to do business with problematic people. I see the events that refuse to create (much less enforce) any kind of safety policy or foster a more consent-focused culture. I see all the folks that just want to have fun and don’t want to hear anything negative about the abuser they are friends with, and then they lash out at those of us who speak up because we are “spoling the fun.”

Those of you that actively or even just passively support the abusers are the reason that so many survivors leave the Pagan community.

Being attacked for speaking up is traumatizing. The trauma I have experienced from speaking up is absolutely a factor in the mental health issues I currently face, as well as the resulting chronic health issues. (Recent studies are absolutely showing that trauma can cause autoimmune and other health issues.)At the year’s end, I’m finding myself in this mental place of, desperately missing teaching and connecting and all the conversations that happen in between the workshops at a conference, and gods, missing chanting and singing together in ritual…

…and at the same time, wondering how do I continue to engage in a community that is so committed to protecting abusers?

I don’t have answers. Will I still try to organize rituals and do more teaching once the pandemic eases up enough that it’s safer? Yes. Because, I miss my community. But, I also have to figure out what appropriate boundaries look like. I don’t want to do events with people who casually support abusers and bigots.

I’m not the first person to write about these issues, nor will I be the last. I know how many of us there are that have struggled with this, because you’ve messaged me to tell me how isolating it is to be without community when everyone closed ranks to protect the abuser you spoke out about it. It is–and I have to stress this–devastatingly more common than many of you might think it is.

I know that I can’t keep putting myself through the psychological wringer of dealing with these kinds of attacks whenever I speak up about an important issue. But, nor do I wish to cede the field to the bullies, abusers, and bigots.

Right now, all I can hope is that 2022 is a better year than 2021 was, and that after this next surge it becomes much safer to gather together…and that some time after that, it becomes possible to do ecstatic rituals with lots of singing and without masks. It breaks my heart how much I miss that sound of all our voices harmonizing together.

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