How the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival’s Topless Womyn Changed My Lesbian Life Forever

Updated Editors Note, March 12, 2013: We’ve caught wind that this essay is being used in some college courses, so we thought it’d be a good idea to check back on what it is that was said here, because we used to be pretty ignorant and didn’t question the cissexist and trans misogynistic implications of this position and ensuing commentary. We’re very sorry. We recommend that you check out this piece on Bitch Magazine, which contains links to lots of other sources of valuable ideas, for more information on Michfest’s trans-exclusionary policies. We’re not going until all women can go, and we urge Michfest to reconsider their policies so all women can enjoy this potentially transformational experience!

ETA #2: Read Andrea Gibson’s statement on why she won’t perform at Michfest, read the Indigo Girls statement on why this is their last year at Michfest, read Queer Porn TV’s explanation for why they’re not screening their film at Michfest, read Nona Hendryx’s tweet saying she won’t perform at Michfest, and read this article on Transadvocate which contains Nancy Burkholder’s story.


 

Ed. note: Autostraddle reader Lindsay wrote us to say she was going to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival this year and asked if we wanted coverage of the event. Obvs, YES! However, because of MichFest’s emphasis on being a safe space for womyn, no photography is permitted. So we found visual aids elsewhere: 1. Some stunning photos by Angela Jimenez via The New York Times – actually, Angela turned her MichFest photojournalism work into a book called “Welcome Home”, 2. Google Image Search! and 3. We got our master cartoon recapper Stef to do some homespun cartoon-rcap art for the piece. Without any further ado, here’s Lindsay, our Canadian roving reporter! And Stef’s cartoons! dotted-divider2

“It was nothing I expected, and it was everything I expected.”

-Staceyann Chin, “Michfest: Nature, God and Free-Roaming Vaginas

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Welcome Home

During the six days I spent with about 10,000 other women camping out on 650 acres of Western Michigan woodlands, I was asked multiple times how I’d heard about the Michigan’s Womyn’s Music Festival to begin with.

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My answer to that is the same as my answer to why it took me so many years to actually attend the event; the Festival was part of the intrinsic Lesbian Folklore I’d been hearing about since I started coming out ten years ago. Therefore, I thought MichFest was for old lesbian hippies who like folk music, not younger womyn like me. I was wrong. Not only did it defy all my (admittedly unfair) expectations … but it felt like coming home.

In fact, it was a lot like how I felt returning to my homeland of Canada after a year studying abroad in Norway. Despite how adept I’d become at Norwegian culture and language, I hadn’t realized how little I’d been myself there ’til I was back in my comfort zone with friends & family. Similarly, the womyn-only “home” of MichFest made me feel more like myself than all the years I’ve spent living in a patriarchal society.

The sense of safety, well-being and complete Freedom I felt at the festival, which I attended with my cousin and her three young daughters, caught me by surprise. In the best way possible.

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Returning womyn know the magic of Michigan is as much what happens off the stages as on them. Everywhere you turn – from the womon-built stages to the outdoor kitchen serving thousands to the follow-spot operator up high in the scaffolding – Festival is living evidence of what womyn are capable of creating. The tangible creative energy that is everywhere on the land explodes into spontaneous woodland parties, parades with outrageous costumes, and performance art on every path. Healthy food, clean air, green woods, art and music will recharge batteries you didn’t even know were fading.

-from The Michigan Womyn’s Festival Website

MichFest_i_05The Michigan Womyn’s Festival celebrated its 34th year in 2009 and is completely built, staffed and run by women. Women cook meals, provide childcare, facilitate workshops, build stages, run the concerts and provide security and medical support for between 3,000 to 10,000 women (many lesbian-identified) each year. It was founded by three working-class women from Michigan in response to the misogyny they experienced working at festivals & venues run by men.

In addition to the music performances, the festival offers Intensive Workshops (titles include “Breast Casting for Women of Color” and “The Matrix of Oppression.”) There’s also a film festival, an artisan/craft show and a full roster of workshops, parties, dances, networking events and full-service childcare. dotted-divider2

Those Legendary MichFest Topless Womyn:

Right before we left for MichFest, this conversation happened:

Littlest Cousin (once removed): But mum, who will drive the tractors?
Cousin: Womyn will drive the tractors.

Honestly I don’t think she believed it ’til she saw it with her own eyes. So yeah, let’s get it out there: there’s a lot of nudity and topless ladies at the Festival. Many of these women are driving the tractor-drawn wagons that shuttle people across the land from the camping areas to the stages and kitchen, and some of the drivers are a little smoother on the clutch than others … as my eight-year-old cousin (once-removed) observed …

Little Cousin: Lindsay, don’t you think she’s a good driver?
Me: Yes, I do.
Little Cousin : The ones without their shirts on are the best drivers!
Me: Umhmm…

tractor

Interestingly, the promise of tractor-driving shirtless womyn were one of my cousin’s reasons for taking her daughters to the festival. She wanted to expose them to empowered womyn capable of anything.

Littlest Cousin: “Did you see that man on the tractor?”
Her Friend:“That’s not a man, remember — all the boys are girls here this week.”

To be honest it took some getting used to — all the topless womyn. I had to stop myself from staring (especially at the extra-beautiful ladies) but eventually I got used to it. In fact, it had an incredible effect on my self-esteem. For one thing, it was a relief to be in the woods far far away from all those unrealistic images of womyn in magazines, on television and in advertisements. But also, being exposed to hundreds of normal topless womyn of all shapes and sizes for an entire week was remarkably healing. Perhaps for the first time ever, I felt comfortable with myself.

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Our Cunts Go Marching On, Dildos, and Butch StrutsMichFest parade - 2

There was no such thing as a typical day at Michigan and I wanted to try a little bit of everything. At the Lesbian Tent Revival with Carolyn Gage, we preched radical feminism while singing, “Our cunts go marching on.” Two womyn put on one of Gage’s plays about being mistaken for a man in a womyn’s bathroom, which was followed by a conversation about identity, safety and rape in our culture.

Though I didn’t attend any, there were more workshops about anal sex and choosing the right dildo than I ever thought possible. There were three parades: the Butch Strut, Femme Parade, and Gaya Girls Parade (for girls aged 5-12). You could learn to walk on stilts,  hula hoop, salsa dance, or do archery.

There were more workshops about anal sex and choosing the right dildo than I ever thought possible.

One morning I spent four hours at an African Dance workshop under a tent. At the beginning of the morning there were 3 drummers and about 20 dancers plus Queen, our fearless leader, an African American woman with bright green eyes wearing dreads with bells woven into them that jingled to the beat of her dancing. Four hours later there were around 10 drummers, 40 dancers, and a crowd of 20 womyn watching.

At a Toe Reading workshop I learned I have “juicy Priestess Toes.” There were also impromptu activities, like the naked revelry in a giant mud puddle after a rain storm, and the drumming I heard late into the night.

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Womyn-Entertaining-Womyn, With Extra Fisting:

In addition to comics like Elvira Kurt, Gloria Bigelow & Poppy Champlin, this year’s festival featured musical performers including God-Des and She, Sia, Amy Ray, Issa (formerly Jane Siberry, her song “Love is Everything” played in The L Word episode 211 while Shane was telling Carmen about her hamster), Girl in a Coma and Jen Foster. 2009-06-09_pride_guide_4304_4753

Every stage performance had an ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter on hand (get it?! HA!), and though I’ve never learned much signing beyond the alphabet and numbers, I got hooked on watching the interpreters. They added serious depth to the performances and so I wasn’t surprised when Amy Ray mentioned that the interpreters actually attend rehearsals and speak with the artists to ensure that the signing reflects the musician’s true lyrical intent.

This was especially obvious during my favorite performance of the week, Melissa Ferrick. First of all, I should say that Melissa Ferrick‘s not your typical folk singer. Her songs are hot & fast, her voice is throaty & raw, and she tells hilarious pre-song stories. As the festival program adeptly put it, Melissa “has the kind of relationship with her audiences that few performers are blessed with. Her firey live shows are compelling experiences that exhibit her magnetic personality, quirky sense of humor and outstanding musicianship.”

So clearly by the end of her 45-minute set, Melissa had the audience in the palm of her hand. When she says her next song was written when her girlfriend challenged her to write something sexy, we were all ears.

Though the literal lyrics were relatively innocent, one particular section is clearly about making her girlfriend come. Then out of the corner of my eye, I see the interpreter wildly elaborating on the lyrics. ASL interpreter Pam Parham, who is clearly a genius, is doing a SERIOUS FISTING GESTURE with devilish delight all over her face.

womyn interpretation

Ferrick’s playing for all she’s worth and she amps it up when the audience goes wild for the interpreter. Because of this response we get ten more minutes of the song. It was the best performance I have ever seen in my entire life — and I wasn’t alone in that assessment: my cousin, who couldn’t go to the Night Stages ’cause her girls needed to be in bed, said the audience response she heard from the campsite was the most enthusiastic of the week.

Honestly before the festival the only performer I’d heard of was Amy Ray (also one half of the Indigo Girls), but I ended up being totally impressed by the variety of great acts and diverse sounds I saw, including nervous but excited, Hanifa Walidah and her band Black Patti and Po’Girl. and Sia. dotted-divider2

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      “It disappoints me when the feminists that I admire don’t get it. Like the musician Bitch, who recently defended Michigan’s entrance policy in an interview with Lesbian Life, saying “…it’s not trans people being marginalized. It’s people who were born as men. The festival is for people who suffered a girlhood.”

      To Bitch and others who agree with her, I ask you to imagine what it could be like to “suffer a girlhood” while also being forced to play the role of a little boy. While many of us suffered through the indignity of being a girl in a patriarchal world, those of us lucky enough to be born into bodies we’re comfortable with need to recognize our privilege, and check it at the door. Or at the gates of any music festival.”

      -Ariel Troster

      She says it better than I ever could.

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        Totally agree. What they dont realize is that there is a lot of division in trans spaces as well with many of us feeling like “true girls” and seeing many others as “men in trans spaces” whatever that means.

        But yes, the big issue is we are not born MEN we are born women with intersexed bodies… we were never men. and i think its that attitude which is most hurtful

        that isnt to say I havent known MEN who transition. the famous wrestler who liked lifting weights and grappling sweaty boys all day… but even THEY insist that was just “fitting in” but somehow I have a hard time swallowing it

        HOWEVER.. some of us… do truly live our whole lives as WOMEN and are discriminated against like you would not F-in believe. I was personally attacked by 100 on 1 gang fights all through my young teens.. and this was life threatening and serious fighting. Imaging being a 10 year old girl and having to fight 100 15 year old boys at once… daily

        dont u dare tell me I’m not a woman and I’ve never suffered

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    No mention of Camp Trans? The transphobia of Michfest still goes on….I would have liked to see more discussion of that on here. Did you consider interviewing any trans leaders or visiting Camp Trans?

    Also, minor point, it’s in Western Michigan, not Eastern Michigan.

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    I just saw that the article was up, yay!

    There were just two things in the commments I wanted to comment on, Riese’s take is right, I tried to write from my own perspective. I stayed in the family camping with my cousins and therefore didn’t have any experience with Camp Trans, or the Over 40s Camping, or anywhere else – that’s why I didn’t write about it. If I go next year I think it would be fun to do some interviews too, but this year being my first I was too overwhelmed with everything else going on and it just didn’t happen.

    Speaking of vadge-pride, I did see two womyn dressed up in giant vagina costumes!

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    “And it’s not trans people being marginalized. It’s people who were born as men.”

    So… it’s just half of trans people being marginalized. The half that actually identifies as women. Huh.

    I’m not trying to be snotty, I just genuinely don’t understand Bitch’s logic here. Why does she believe the meaningful criteria for admittance is “people who suffered a girlhood?” And more importantly, don’t most MTF’s think of themselves as having a girlhood? Just one that was denied and disparaged (and apparently continues to be so?) Aren’t we being inherently transphobic when we deny them that, and tell them, essentially, sorry, nope, you were totes a dirty boy, no matter what you thought you were, and you’ll never be enough of a woman to join us? And what is gained by excluding them? Do we seriously believe they’re deep cover covert men just waiting to sneak into women’s safe spaces?

    I feel like I’m being Snotty McSnotterson here, and I want to emphasize that I really did enjoy the article. But honestly, this whole discussion is throwing me for a loop, because the festival sounds so otherwise awesome and progressive and queer and it’s causing crazy cognitive dissonance to try and reconcile this transmisogyny with that.

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    I am a little upset about the trans policy as well. It’s not trans men being excluded, it’s trans women.

    Bitch’s quote assumes that trans women have never “suffered a girlhood”. But they have: they just had a boy’s identity at the time. From the people I talked to, in childhood many trans women were drawn to girly things but suffered a backlash because they were expected to be “boys”, ie something they weren’t really inside. These women have gone through more challenges to be women than I can even imagine. We should accept that and not get hung up on trans women being some kind of “threat” because they used to be men. I mean, wtf? They never really were, and they certainly weren’t happy with their old gender identity or they wouldn’t have taken the hugely courageous step to live their true lives and become one of North America’s most marginalized and attacked groups in the process.

    I think it sends totally the wrong message to allow trans men and not trans women. It should be the other way around in a woman-defined space.

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      I’m not sure I’m up for a full on debate about the Fest Policy, though I do agree with it. I did want to comment on a small thing you said.

      “I think it sends totally the wrong message to allow trans men and not trans women.”

      1. Fest works on an honor system. There is no pantie checking. So, the word “allows” gives a flavor that is not present at fest.

      2. All the trans men I have had the occasion to have discussion with about “women’s space” say they would not attend, as they do not identify as ‘women born women’.

      I always think that debating an experience you have not had is like commenting on the taste of food without having eaten any. There is inherent flaw in judging your taste by others taste buds.

      And I won’t even go there on those who took a stand to comment on what someone should have included in her writings about her personal experience.

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    I suggest looking further into what the older generation of womyn have to say about the reasoning. I’m not of that generation, and I cannot claim to know the nuances. So, I will just share this in the hope that you will look into it further before passing judgement after one link.
    I do know there’s plenty out there for readers willing to hear the whys. All of this has been thought out ad-infinitum long before any of us were even thought of. Many arguments are worth attention, even if you later decide you don’t agree with them. This is not the kind of topic that can be addressed in a 5 minute blog reply.

    For example, one interesting point involves a consideration of the inherent nature of living in a patriarchy. Male children are considered privileged in a patriarchal society. Even males who later transition were raised with this baggage. It is difficult to abandon once ingrained into a person, and that does change the dynamic of any interaction.

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    Well you have me convinced. Been wanting to go for awhile and this is more than reason enough to get me planning. Out of curiousity where in Canada did you travel from? Southern Ont is where i’m at, would be cool to carpool or something. Thanks again!

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    While I understand the prohibition against women born as men who choose to change later in life, what about women born with male chromosomes and go through a regular girlhood but are not genetically female. I’m talking about women with conditions like Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, who are XY, but since their cells don’t respond to testosterone, they develop morphologically and psychologically as girls; the estrogen that their bodies put out is able to feminize them naturally just like XX females. But, since they don’t have a uterus, they don’t menstruate (that’s usually how they find out that they are AIS), and, of course, can’t have babies. These women didn’t choose to be females; they were born that way, and go through a girlhood just like other XX womyn.

    That said, to those trans males to females that don’t like MWMF’s transphobic policies, just start your own festival. The same is true for men. If womyn can have their own festival, then so can transfolks and so can XY males. Exclusivity is not a monopoly held by womyn.

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      I wondered when I would get to some extreme end gender question.

      Have you ever prepared a dinner for friends?

      You invite 10 people and you then try to choose a menu to suit everyone. It’s hard.

      Try inviting 50 people and then covering their food issues.

      Now try 1000 or 2000.

      Individuals who personally identify as women, but believe that their chromosomes might be reason for them to not be welcomed, should get in touch with fest and have a conversation. They can decide after having it if they feel fest is a good match for them.

      It’s the same as if I had some food issue and was attending the very large dinner party and needed to know if there were going to be enough foods I could eat to satisfy me. I contact the hostess.

      Trish

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    It is even not only the question to have lived a girlhood or not, as most lesbians tried not to conform to female stereotype (by freedom, taste and for sexual survival).
    Only radical lesbians pretend to be lesbians for political reasons first if not only reason and speak a lot about gender.
    I will tell you something true : nature exists, that you try to remove or add any culture on top, it will still exist. Also lesbians exist long before any questionning about gender role or women oppression, and they love women AND they do not like men! It is a definition that fits most lesbians.
    Also this festival was created by lesbians for lesbians and women (90 % lesbians actually) to enjoy and create *women loving women*’s culture and find freedom there.
    Just tell me how a trans man (FTM) who would take testosterone, grow a bearb (when a free woman or a lesbian will just let her hair grow, there is a big difference..), try to have a male voice (not a lesbian voice), try to have a male brain, try to enter any stupid privileges of men, try to fuck women and invade them sexually with a penis if he/she had one, so how could we lesbians feel that this woman is still a woman or a lesbian ? Maybe, and maybe not, at the beginning of her transformation but surely not after.
    And do I have to repeat ?
    Lesbians, separatist lesbians do not like men for both political and *natural* epidermic motivations as well.
    Same problem with a trans woman (MTF), if you really think she can pass for a female or worse a lesbian (!!), and would not pass for a male anyway, then ok, include, include!
    But don’t fool us, it is impossible, I don’t know one single lesbian, who would not be bisexual, and who would have a MTF partner.
    For lesbians, a woman :
    - is not a female stereotype.
    - is not a female-looking person who still can’t refrain to act like a man and impose her presence in front of lesbians and a lot of what we always used to recognize and distrust in males (males our competitors and our ennemies like for all the female class).
    - can be very masculine and diverse but has no remains of a male body, if it is not in the shape then it is in the flesh, smell, etc.. or no male brain that lesbians could still guess and sense as being foreign to females but apparented to males.
    - does not have an artificial – deprived of lesbian/women feelings – hole between the legs but has a real clitoris and a real vagina.
    In fact the problem with trans inclusion outside of any political discussion is that lesbians are used to recognize and love and make love with masculine lesbians (a lesbian always has something masculine, but not male), they are used to detect the female in them, so there is unfortunately no way that a MTF could pass for a woman or a lesbian, maybe at 50 meters, but not in a bed or even not at some meters away..

    Sorry to disappoint trans activists but I had to say it.

    Moreover, trans activists targeting the only event which is for lesbians-(and women born women)only when we know all the difficulties that lesbians are facing in their lives, most being very poor, rejected and isolated from their pairs, and how rare are separatist lesbians amongst a lesbian population, I find it just disgusting and only another assault of queer/liberal/pro-sex/financed by sex-trade industry activists.

    Moreover, transgender people, who can be all and everything, and especially just post-mod coolest macho men willing to enter lesbian space, as usual, also known in the past as just *lesbian men* as they called themselves, or we could even say just any violent men fantasizing about lesbians and willing to be always included by any possible females he could dream to parasite, is another side of the same trans inclusion anything.

    Why not open Michfest to men and straight people then, or just say give them the key and commit suicide ?

    Men, trans-things, will never ever create lesbian culture and women love. MTF are only in love of a vision they have on what is a female to their mind, and it is their absolute right to change sex, as it is the right of transgenders to want to be called this name or this other name and have no coercition linked to their sex at birth.. Ok but be realistic, the heteropatriarchal culture is more oppressive than ever, than when it was in the 70′s, 80′s when mass feminism existed and bigger separatist movements/communities/events existed, so people who are now at absolute delight with this society because they are for mixity (MTF separatist lesbians do not exist, sorry..) and are sticking to most sexual stereotypes although they pretend the opposite (they think a man not behaving like a macho is not a man or that a woman not looking like a barbie doll is already a transgender), that these so-called transgender people invade other spaces, and deal with their trans-ness together.
    That MTF began to be recognized as such by straight women and straight men before to want to have a recognition that cannot happen from separatist lesbians and from most lesbians. Or alternatively show me these lesbians having intimate relationships with trans women then, this before that trans even try to claim to be lesbians.
    Ok they are women and lesbians, but in their definition and OUTSIDE OF OUR SPACES.
    We do not choose our sex at birth, we can choose to change it later but this choice when the end result is far from perfect cannot be imposed on others in name of any prohibited violence against, any racism, any political uncorrectness.
    If we called racism, this indeed phobia (phobia means do not like, hate), menphobia and transphobia that lesbians feel in front of men and transwomen or transmen, then lesbians would sleep with men if male or female body would not matter more than a skin color or a fat/slimness, but it matters, it matters, so maybe not so much intellectually and we could discuss it for long, but please in reality, it matters. Only bisexuals would not mind.
    Lesbians don’t feel safe or free with men, they love women, they dislike or hate men (if they liked or ignored them, men would be in their beds, especially with all the sexual pressure and harassment put on any woman) and in spite of that, they are obliged to see men and straight couples around and around and hold them all the time outside of Michfest, men and the society they created, and men are their ennemies, really, so yes they can hate men, even those who were never interested in feminism can hate men, and you know what, it is their right, so former men or men in head are not welcome.
    And menphobia, transphobia does not kill any person, which is not the same with lesbophobia or misogyny, keep that in mind too. Lesbians do not owe anything to men or to trans!

    And it is so obvious.. But not for men and men defenders apparently.

    Normal, women and especially lesbian voices are never heard.

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      What? As a “normal” woman (whatever that means) and a lesbian, you need to take your fucked-up transphobic fuckery and fuck off. Don’t you dare act like you’re speaking for me.

      Also: “transphobia does not kill any person,”

      Liar. The murder rate for trans people in the US is 1 in 12. Words and attitudes like yours contribute to a culture that KILLS these people. To see it coming from the gay community of all places is pretty horrifying.

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      This is about the stupidest thing I’ve ever read

      1) I fool lesbians every day. They, like everyone, dont have a clue. And I mean naked or clothed

      2) Post op you do not have “a hole” you have a fully correct vagina, clitoris, labia, labia minora, frenulum. All of it. So piss off you ignorant fuck

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        Fuck your patriarchal anti-woman bullshit. A screen name perpetuating violence against women? How charming. Way to be a perfect example of why WBW spaces need to exist. Targeting lesbians for murder, a oppressed group that by default is only made up of women, would fall under hate crime legislation if it were carried out in the US. And while there are perfectly valid reasons that don’t revolve around men (imagine that!) for women wanting and needing to be with other women, don’t pretend to be offended that yes, part of it all is the beauty of being away from patriarchal bullshitters and violence-advocates like yourself. Especially when you offer on a platter the perfect example of why women want nothing to do with you.

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      reading all those paragraph-long sentences completely devoid of punctuation and peppered with rambling, delusional sentiments of faux facts and extremism was not unlike reading the label on a bottle of dr. bronner’s.

      have fun with all that man-hating and whatnot! if you get a break from the separatist nihilism, try to brush up on your verb conjugation.

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    “Transphobia does not kill any person…”

    Look up the Transgender Day of Remembrance, for the hundreds of women and men killed every year purely from Transphobia and enforcing the boundary between male and female.

    This week, it included a 17 month old child assigned male who was beaten to death for acting too “girlie”.

    From the FBI statistics, an average of 5 GLB people have been killed every year because of their sexual orientation. This includes lesbians killed for being who they are.

    20 Trans women and 5 Trans men are killed over the same period, just for being who they are too.

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    Wait a moment, does transphobia from lesbians equals transphobia from men’s culture and from men and men who kills transpeople ??? No way !
    Non-inclusion and preservation of people willing to be men or of people that we still recognize as men, is not the same transphobia then ?
    Another thing : does mandatory inclusion of men kill women ?
    Answer is yes.
    Next I forgot to stress out something in this report from Autostraddle, how come she is speaking about dildos and anal sex, hoe come focusing once more on objectification of women, sexualization of.. quite sensitive and possibly painful area, seving once again male interests.
    What will come next ?
    Focusing on how feet massages can be sex and have to overwhelm everything because sex has toi drive the world, even the most awful ways to have sex (for women), quite frankly I would prefer this option of feet massages to the others, thank you.
    Why not speaking about – and stay focuse on . women’s culture instead ?

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      sidestepping the transphobia to focus on another utterly ridiculous thing:
      right, all women hate penetration, and all penetration by male parts for male pleasure, it can’t possibly be from a woman’s fingers or toys, for female pleasure can it? you are just providing another great example of how incredibly hateful and close-minded separatists tend to be.

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    I don’t understand how any female identified people are unwelcome at a womyn’s festival. If you are a women you should be welcome (mtfs inculded.)

    By this reasoning I could understand denying access to ftm’s, they don’t identify as women. However, trans men are directly linked to the lesbian community. Many once considered themselves lesbians, and have experienced society boxing them in as such in the past. Although ftm’s are not women i think it could be generally concluded that they are allies, often feminists, and should also be welcome.

    This stated, I don’t believe boycotting the festival is the answer. Often the best way to make change is from inside of an organization. If people show up expressing their disapproval of trans exclusive policies, the likelihood of a more inclusive future will increase.

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    “I don’t understand how any female identified people are unwelcome at a womyn’s festival. ”

    I wanted to address this comment.. And I will from my personal understanding of the policy.

    The intended audience via their policy is “women born women” fest believes and I personally do as well that the life experience of WBW is unique.

    When I explain this is my friends I explain it like this. I am bi racial my father is black my mother is white. I do attended all black lesbian events. I have not been turned away even though I am technically half black.

    However, if the promoter came to me and said that the targeted audience was black lesbians raised by two black parents, I would not attend. As my life experience raised by a white mother and a black father is different than those raised by two black parents.

    The life experience of a WBW is different, than trans women and others who though not WBW, identify as women.

    Beyond that fest is held on privately owned land, hosted by the land owner, so I dont get whats to debate. If I have a party at my home, I invite whom I choose. I can charge cover at the door or whatever. It’s just that simple. Those I invite can attend or not.

    Trish

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      But if I get an invite to a pivate party and it says “white women only – for discussing the unique experiences of white women, who we will now simply refer to as women”, I can decide that the private party that it is perfectly legal for people to have is racist. I can tell them it is racist. I can encourage my friends not to go to the racist party, or if they do go, to openly question the racist nature of the party’s intention.

      This is the same as the MichFest policy, only replacing one relatively privileged group of women (white women) with another relatively privileged group of women (cis women).

      Just because a thing is legal does not mean we have to pretend it is acceptable.

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        There is no such thing as privileged cis women. Cis women are not rewarded for not being trans. The notion of cis women privilege is false because it implies that women are privileged at all over someone born male, which is never true. There is no such thing as female privilege and we are not rewarded but punished for being born female. Trans women do not have the experience of being born and perceived as female, a crime indeed in this male-default world. As with trans, we have had the “less than” factor forced upon us from birth and punished from day one for not being born male. The difference is the degree of oppression women is experience from birth, versus trans women experiencing it when they begin to outwardly identify as a member of a group that has always lived as the second-class citizens to men’s first class. We in the lower-privileged class never had the luxury of “indentifying” with it or opting to stick with being in the highest privileged group even if we didn’t identify with it. Cis-female privilege is non-existent because we, unlike trans women, have no lower classes beneath us we can appropriate, and womanhood offers no rewards, only punishment, which we are not able to opt-out of, unlike those born male. Womanhood is an offense and the punishments are simply thrust upon us from the get-go. Trans women have much different experiences and opportunities and discriminations. I’m not even getting into the whole different experience of having a vagina that interacts with our other organs as part of a system because I am not a biotruther, but being born with one affects how we are treated (with less value and freedom) and how we treat ourselves. It is a different experience than the one had by someone who fashioned a make-shift one later in life.

        In short, “cis-woman privilege” is non-existent. That’s like saying there’s disabled-privileged. It’s offensive. Unlike trans women, there is nothing we female-born women can do or undo to relieve ourselves from the lifelong punishment for the crime of being born without a dick in this world where having a dick is the ultimate feature of supremacy and the ultimate free pass to dominance over all other features, in every nation and culture. A dick is regarded as the highest achievement, and offers the maximum reward, more so than white skin and/or wealth. Black men, gay men, disabled men, trans women, poor men; these are all people who will be afforded more privilege and respect than white women, straight women, abled-women, and wealthy women and it just gets worse from there for minority women in ways that don’t exist for minority men. Appropriating that or co-opting it from a privileged group is going to take more reality-checking than what is currently employed by trans women, who are coming from the most-privileged group.

        I know it’s 2012, but it’s still called a patriarchy for a reason.

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    By the way, attending fest and supporting the policy does not make one anti trans. I go there, just as I go anyplace I go… because that place meets the need I desire of it.

    I always find it interesting when people say that everyone person has a right to be in every place. There a male only spaces, there are over 65 only spaces, military only spaces, student only, employee only and a list of others…

    However, anyone who has taken any amount of womens history learning knows that the concept of “I have a right to everything” is very male.

    Trish

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      Anyone who has studied any amount of transphobic radfem rhetoric knows that when a trans woman asserts herself it is described as “male,” but when a transphobic radfem asserts herself it is described as “empowered.”

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