In 2015, I was knighted in the Jedi Federation. The year leading up to that, I had started a lot of hard conversations in the Jedi community about sexism, about homophobia and transphobia, and about racism. I’d been trying to call folks in, to encourage them to think about the ramifications of their words and actions, whether they meant those things or not. I am not the first person in the Jedi community to take on some of this work, nor will I be the last, or even someone remembered for doing it. But it was important to me, and I felt like progress was being made. I hosted a workshop on allyship at the 2015 Gathering, and was confirmed a Knight the next day. I believed that the community as a whole was willing and interested in that work of self-education on oppression.
Practically the day after I received my Knighthood, I began being harassed by people in the community for this work. I was called a feminazi, a bitch, a cunt. I was drummed out of community spaces, and talked about behind my back constantly. People were warned about me, and told to not attend events I would be at. People made YouTube videos about how wrong I was, what a terrible person I was. And when I turned to leaders in the community for support, people I considered friends and mentors, I was told to be the better person, to turn the other cheek as this toxic behavior ran rampant and drove person after person out of the community. Across the community, more than one trans Jedi friend was harassed out of the community for being trans. Many Jedi women in the community (myself included) have been sexually harassed and/or assaulted by other so-called Jedi, and left, or stepped back from leadership positions. Black and POC members of the community have been made to feel unwelcome in these spaces. Disabled Jedi have been told that they can’t really be a Jedi if they don’t meet specific physical standards.
If you’re reading this and thinking ‘surely they aren’t talking about me’, think again. This problem affects all of us. It is our collective responsibility. I’ve seen several people touted as leaders in the community give broad apologies for not stepping up, or making mistakes in the past. I am here to tell them, and everyone else, that is not enough. You cannot begin to apologize without putting real work into making the Jedi community a space for everyone to grow and learn. And that means setting boundaries, and holding people accountable in a serious way, especially when they are people you like and are friends with. And that work is not just for leaders, but for each and every person on the Jedi path participating in this community. If you don’t step up and speak out against toxicity, you are tacitly supporting it.
After I stepped down from the Federation council in response to this behavior, several folks messaged me privately in support. I wish they had spoken out sooner, but I also understand why they were afraid. The experience of being harassed out of the community was traumatic and a deep betrayal from people I have known for years. I understand deeply why someone wouldn’t want to step up to be the next community punching bag. But the leaders in the community (and not just in the Federation, but in all Jedi communities) had a responsibility to do something, not just for me, but for all of us, and refused. I have never felt more alone than when I was trying to help the community learn to be a better version of itself.
I am still all for calling someone in before you call someone out. I am here for mediation, and restorative action. I am here for growing from mistakes, and rejecting the moral purity culture that says if you’re not perfect you are garbage. But this community has lost some of it’s bravest, most hardworking, and incredible Jedi because it thinks there is a perspective that is “normal” and all other perspectives are not. That there is a default of what a Jedi should look like, and deviations from that norm are only to be tolerated so far. This community has defined “peace” as lack of conflict, and rejected those that have pointed out it’s deep flaws and real problems, instead of grappling with those issues.
So let me be very clear. A Jedi is a human being who, through their own will, determination, faith, belief, etc. decides to improve themselves in order to better serve their community. Their entire community. That Jedi studies and trains in mind, body, and spirit within whatever abilities and limitations they happen to have to be the best version of themselves, and then goes out into the world to use those skills. They learn from their mistakes, do their best to interpret and follow the Jedi Code, and keep doing the work. That’s it, that’s the whole thing.
Jedi stand up for the people in their community, and I do mean all the people. Not just the ones you know or see, but the ones you don’t know, the ones you sometimes wish you didn’t see. Jedi fight for the unhoused, those without enough resources to survive, those struggling just to find sanity and peace in their lives. Jedi fight for the rights and lives of people of all races, but especially for their BIPOC siblings in the Force against personal and structural racism. Jedi fight against fascism and unjust laws, and work hard to educate themselves about other lives and experiences. Jedi are anti-racist. Jedi are intersectional feminists. Jedi are anti-fascist. Jedi are anti-homophobic and anti-transphobic. Jedi take a step back and let those with expertise (professional and personal) take the lead, and lend their power to those already doing the work and fighting the good fight, and step up in places when no one is doing that work, despite the personal consequences.
However you can do this work without burning yourself out, whatever you can contribute to the world with your unique self is the best and most important first step. If holding your friends accountable, if taking a good look at your own behavior and working to turn ‘I’m sorry, I was wrong’ into action, sounds too scary to attempt, or work not worth doing? Reconsider the work, or reconsider your label of Jedi.