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Who cares, right? Some stupid festival. Except this thing happens where I meet somebody who seems like a cool queer, talk to them for a while, find out eventually that they go to Michfest, and end up realizing: I cannot trust anyone. Nobody has to be accountable to trans women about this shit anywhere, ever. It is this insidious thing that sneaks up on you every time you go to a party or a reading or something: one of these queers to whom I’ve just been introduced goes to Michfest. I mean, I think it is clear how that would make a trans woman feel fucked up, right? “Oh yeah I am good friends with someone who spends hundreds of dollars every summer to support a group that defines ‘woman’ as ‘not you.’”
I was 15 when my Mom told me about The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. She was going, obviously, with a group of her lesbian friends, and she said I too would love Michfest and I’m sure I said something snarky and awful about how unlikely it seemed that she and I could possibly enjoy the same music festival. I was 20 when a group of old friends who’d recently come out invited me to Michfest, probably the same summer I accompanied my frat boy boyfriend to Warped Tour, and I declined. Like most things I said “no” to back then, eventually coming to terms with my own sexuality would transform my feelings on the matter-at-hand into a rousing HELL YES.
But I didn’t live in Michigan anymore, and despite my love of “women’s music” and curiosity about this hippie Disneyland it was difficult to justify the expense — so I should’ve jumped at the chance to attend when Autostraddle was offered press passes last summer. But between 2005 (when I added it to the bucket list) and 2013 (when we were invited), I stopped wanting to go altogether. And I’m not the only one.
There are thousands of women just like me who weren’t at Michfest last week for reasons that are more ideological than practical (although there is that, too). Because somewhere between my Mom’s generation and my own, Michfest stopped being known as a place to celebrate diverse womynhood and became an institution synonymous with transmisogyny and discrimination for its trans-female-exclusionary “womyn-born-womyn” intention. Furthermore, this “intention” and the controversy surrounding it have become a stain on the entire lesbian feminist community. Every summer, vicious infighting erupts around the artists who are performing at Festival, draining energy and severing unity amongst the very community Michfest claims to celebrate.
This year, activists and performers weren’t the only ones who are speaking out against the intention. Two weeks ago, Equality Michigan launched a petition calling for Michfest to put an end to it, and The Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group and political lobbying organization in the country, announced that they “stand in solidarity” with Equality Michigan, stating, “While the organizers continue to insist that excluding trans women is not an official policy, their “intention” that the festival caters exclusively to “womyn born womyn” serves to further marginalize trans women, denying them access to one of the only exclusively female spaces in our society.” On August 4th, The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force signed the Equality Michigan petition and announced their solidarity with the position.
In response, Michfest posted a statement on their Facebook page characterizing Equality Michigan’s stance as “based on misrepresentations, purposeful omissions, and selective editing of prior Festival statements on this issue” and argued the following:
The experience of being female, like the experience of being trans, informs how we become the womyn we are. Recognizing the inherent differences in these overarching experiences is the true meaning of intersectionality. Gathering around these particular strands of experience is no more discriminatory than womyn from the continent of Africa gathering without African-American womyn, womyn from the U.S. South gathering without womyn from the Pacific Northwest, or working class womyn gathering separately from womyn with class privilege. All of our oppressions are real. To create a hierarchy of oppression that disappears any groups’ experience sets us one against the other.
Considering declining attendance and an increasingly shorter list of people willing to perform at Michfest, it seems like any year now could be Michfest’s very last chance to get its shit together. But if herstory is any indicator, it’s more likely the festival will disappear altogether than change its exclusionary ways — and that’s either unfortunate or passively inevitable, depending on who you ask.
“The Festival has lost an entire generation of women through sheer stubbornness and refusal to move forward with the times,” Bryn Kelly, a transgender writer and performer who attended Michfest in 2008, told me. “What used to be a symbol of feminist liberation has now become a symbol of transgender oppression. At this point, Festival’s WBW intention has lasted longer than the US Military’s Don’t-Ask-Don’t Tell policy. I don’t believe they’ll ever recover from this decades-long public relations debacle.”
Others are holding out hope. Trans activist Kayley Whalen, Executive Office Board Liaison at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, wrote about her Michfest experience for The Huffington Post this week, saying that if the anti-trans “bullies” get their way, “they will drag down with them every compassionate, kind, loving women at the festival who gave me hope, joy and confidence.”
As this year’s festival winds down, the world is watching — what’s next for Michfest?
Change Is Gonna Come… From Within?
When we were contacted about running advertising for Michfest and attending, we eventually declined, explaining that it was impossible to reconcile this website’s goals of trans allyship with attending Michfest, or even accepting their ad dollars. We’d published a positive article about the festival from a guest writer, back when we were absolutely not allies in any capacity and us editors were obscenely ignorant about trans women’s issues in general, but we’re trying to eventually deserve the honor of “ally” now. (I’m ashamed and retroactively shocked that I, too, was once easily convinced that the womyn-born-womyn policy was sound and fair, and even defended it.) Due to various linguistic run-arounds from Lisa Vogel, there was a lot of confusion about the actual status of the intention amongst outsiders — the festival volunteer who first told me about Trans Women Belong Here, who fight for inclusion “from the inside,” told me trans women were now welcome at the Festival. The full-time staffer who’d reached out to me about attending denounced the womyn-born-womyn intention, but encouraged me to attend and said Festival was home to a diversity of perspectives, including a lot of activism happening on “the inside.” Michfest supporters often talk about “fighting from the inside,” insisting that dissent is welcome on The Land and so if you really truly care about trans inclusion, you’d buy a ticket, show up, and complain about it once you get there.
There might be some merit to this concept — Bevin Branlandingham of Queer Fat Femme, who has been attending the festival for 12 years, believes that initiatives like the four-day “Allies in Understanding” workshop she co-facilitates will eventually lead to a change in this intention. This year, she’s used her instagram to “document actions and conversations and workshop reports about the work going on in the ferns for Trans womyn’s inclusion at festival.” Others argue that a commitment to “dialogue” is overly generous, as it treats bigotry with too much compassion.
In an op-ed for Michigan-based alt-weekly Pride Source, transgender writer Zoe Steinfeld spoke out against alleged allies who attend, declaring that “to judge [a marginalized woman] an outsider based on a violent patriarchal system of sex assignment is not feminist. To echo conservative paranoia about her isn’t progressive. To attempt to speak in her stead — by wearing a t-shirt and attending a workshop — while paying to enjoy the institution that silences her, isn’t allyship.”
Whipping Girl author Julia Serano doesn’t think allies can “fight from the inside,” noting that “If you look back at history, there has not been a single instance where people have overcome a deeply entrenched prejudice without first being forced to interact with the people they detest. Mere words cannot dispel bigoted stereotypes and fears; only personal experience can.”
Tobi Hill-Meyer, a trans activist and writer who spent half a day at Michfest in 2008 and the full week in 2011, described a Michfest experience that echoed that assertion — “bias like this is able to flourish when trans women remain an unknown boogie monster… I talked with a woman who opposed trans women at the festival and after five minutes of sharing my story she told me that she didn’t know what the larger answer was but that she knew I belonged there.”
But Tobi also pointed out that when considering if allies should boycott the festival or not, it’s important to look at what those allies are doing when they attend. “I get the sense some people treat it like their vacation, enjoy camping, smile at the few trans women who attend, then maybe spend one afternoon attending a workshop conversation on the issue and will call that “working from the inside,'” she told me. “I know other allies who have created safe spaces, spent hours at a time on the side of the road flyering and engaging others, organized actions, taken direction from the trans women in attendance, who have pushed to make the segments of the festival they work with to be trans welcoming, who’ve been yelled at, demonized, targeted for harassment and more,” Tobi said, adding that she was “truly grateful” for “the allies who directly supported me while I was there — their support helps make it possible for trans women to confront these stereotypes and fears in person.”
But many others have come to believe that any ally’s best route towards genuine allyship is to stay home. Transgender writer Annie Danger said in a 2010 letter to her feminist friends who attend Michfest, “I am having a hard time separating your attendance of MWMF and your silence with me about this issue from your level of respect for me; for my body… What I hear is that the festival is a powerful and welcoming other planet where women’s lives, pains, struggles, and hopes are more commonly understood. This is allegedly a place of healing based on welcoming. A harsh toke for me: This is a place where I, on a body level even more than a political one, am profoundly unwelcome.”
Facing The Music, 2013 Edition
While I was going back and forth with the Michfest staffer in 2013, a situation that’s almost become an annual ritual starting just before spring and stretching into the summer was already underway — a series of scheduled Michfest performers were canceling, activists were calling for a boycott, and festival producer Lisa Vogel was gearing up to release an insufferably unsatisfactory “statement” regarding why the festival continues clinging to this outdated definition of “womyn-born-womyn.”
Jenn Burleton, a trans musician who played Michfest in the ’80s and ’90s while keeping her trans status a secret, is one of many who think performers who choose any route besides refusing to play are just caving in to the most radicalized and misinformed voices.” It’s in that spirit that in 2013, comedian/activist/writer Red Durkin called for a boycott of Michfest and its performers until the policy was changed.
Andrea Gibson dropped out in March. In April, The Indigo Girls announced that this would be their last year at the festival until the policy changes. The Indigo Girls are festival mainstays, and Amy Ray‘s partner is a longtime Michfest volunteer. By taking a stand, The Indigo Girls weren’t just standing up against political adversaries, they were severing decades-long friendships. I anticipated their withdrawal would be the ultimate catalyst for change, yet the festival’s intention lives on.
Nona Hendryx dropped out in June. JD Samson, who’d been attending the festival for half her life and was pulled from a number of queer events for playing it, announced in June that she remained confident “that the MWMF will one day become a place of safety, solidarity, and unconditional love for ALL Womyn,” but that “this will be my last year attending the festival until that day comes.”
Then Lisa Vogel released her 2013 statement of intolerance, which included the following:
The Festival, for a single precious week, is intended for womyn who at birth were deemed female, who were raised as girls, and who identify as womyn. I believe that womyn-born womyn (WBW) is a lived experience that constitutes its own distinct gender identity.
As we struggle around the question of inclusion of transwomyn at the festival, we use the word intention very deliberately. Michigan holds this particular lived experience of womanhood as honorable, meaningful, unique and rich. Our intention has always been coupled with the radical commitment to never question any womon’s gender. We ask the greater community to respect this intention, and to value the complexity and validity of every gender identity, including that of WBW. The onus is on each individual to choose whether or how to respect that intention.
See, Michfest’s present strategy is to eschew the word “policy” by using the word “intention,” and to insist they don’t refuse ticket sales or forcibly eject trans women, they just request trans women “respect” the intention by not coming. It seems really truly absurd for lesbian organizers to claim that an environment in which trans women are merely tolerated rather than embraced or welcomed could ever be a fun event, let alone a Utopia of Self-Acceptance. Sure, many trans women attend and have a good time, but even if nobody is questioning the trans status of attendees, how comfortable could a trans woman feel at an event where she’d been asked to not attend out of respect for women? How can we ask members of the most economically disadvantaged group in the LGBTQ umbrella to buy $400+ event passes and undoubtedly expensive plane tickets to Grand Rapids in order to attend an event also attended by womyn who find their very presence threatening to the safety of their space?
As Tobi told me, this lingustic run-around does enable Lisa Vogel to abdicate responsibility for the situation, despite the fact that trans women remain unwelcome. “In practical terms,” Tobi said, “[the intention] means that very little if anything is ever done on an institutional level to confront transphobia or anti-trans harassment.”
Shortly after Vogel’s 2013 announcement, the staff member who’d reached out to me resigned from her position at Michfest, citing her inability to reconcile this “intention” with her personal politics as the straw that broke the camel’s back. She was the only full-time employee who was outspoken about inclusion and the first (and possibly only) to quit over it.
The losses kept piling up, but Michfest persisted with the intention.
Play It Again, 2014 Style
This year, Lea DeLaria‘s participation had barely even been announced before it was redacted. Hunter Valentine had already declared in March that they were withdrawing, noting that “we have always felt and identified as positive trans allies and feel that playing the festival would directly contradict our beliefs that a trans woman is a woman and should be seen, respected and treated as such.” Xoe Wise and Baskery also dropped out once they were made aware of the policy. More recently, Antigone Rising published an Op-Ed in The Advocate about why they’d never play the Festival again.
Those who have remained on the ticket have often lost gigs elsewhere — Bitch’s participation in Michfest has led to her losing gigs as far back as 2007, when she was uninvited to the Boston Dyke March. The truly fantastic duo Climbing PoeTree were pulled from Oregon Queer Students of Color Conference this year ten days before the conference began. OQCC stated that although they don’t consider the girls transphobic, they disagree “regarding our approaches to solidarity and activism surrounding Michfest.” Climbing PoeTree wrote on their blog that they oppose the intention, but planned on playing regardless and donating their proceeds towards “supporting a convening, event, coalition or institution that reflects the values of inclusion we want to embody moving forward into the future we are collaborating to create.”
Subsequently, festival producer Lisa Vogel sent an e-mail to former Fest attendees begging them to support the festival if they want it to continue past this upcoming year. She explained how they could buy honorary tickets and make donations, but also implored supporters to rally around the musical artists who, by playing Michfest, have now been “harassed on their Facebook and twitter pages, creating political controversy for the artists, subjecting them to public shaming and resulting in very real economic loss, losses that none of these independent artists can possibly shoulder alone.”
In that e-mail and many other communications, Vogel was engaging in the same rhetoric and logical fallacies that have been employed by trans misogynist feminists since the dawn of time, wherein they can play the victim by re-framing deserved backlash as unprompted aggression. She’s also ignoring the fact that trans womyn who attend also face harassment. Tobi found herself on a “hit list” after attending The Festival and subsequently “targeted for online harassment” including people “ridiculing my appearance, tracking down my parents’ contact info and sending them hate mail and links to naked pictures of me.” The next year, Tobi was “emailed threats warning me not to attend again.” Although “a large portion of the women I met at the festival welcomed me,” ultimately, Tobi found Michfest “both one of the most affirming, welcoming and supportive places I’ve ever been and simultaneously the source of incredible hostility and the worst harassment I’ve ever received.”
“We’re not demanding they let us in, but that they stop pushing us out,” Zoe Steinfeld wrote. “We’re not invading women’s spaces with men’s bodies, we’re women banished from our own spaces.”
The Mothers Who’ve Paved The Way: Michfest’s Legacy
When I talk to my peers about Michfest, which attracted up to 9,000 campers at its peak and now brings in more like 3,000, most of them don’t know anything about it besides that it’s not open to all women. They don’t know the history or how the festival sprung out of a movement centered around women’s music and the idea of self-sustaining economies. As Lindsay Van Gelder and Pamela Robin Brandt write in the 1997 book The Girls Next Door, the women’s music scene provided “our first real alternative to gay bars.” Artists who have played Michfest over the years include Cris Williamson, Holly Near, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Pamela Means, Nedra Johnson, Tracy Chapman, Ani DiFranco, Le Tigre, The Butchies, Gina Breedlove, Northern State, Tegan and Sara, Sia, BETTY, Chris Pureka, Melissa Ferrick, THEESatisfaction, Team Dresch, Mary Gauthier, Laura Nyro, Staceyann Chin, Jill Sobule, Toshi Reagon, Kinnie Starr, Dar Williams, Pat Parker and Erin McKeown.
Lisa Vogel was a 19-year-old working class college dropout from Michigan when she came up with the idea for Michfest — while stoned and on a road trip — and the first proto-Michfest event was held in 1975. “The festivals pioneered much of what’s progressive in lesbian culture: sliding-scale ticket prices, free child care, signing for the hearing-impaired,” wrote Brandt & Van Gelder. The food is vegetarian, the workshops are heavy on drum circles, meditation and sexual exploration, and all work on The Land is done by festival volunteers and attendees. There’s also a sliding scale to make the festival as accessible as possible. This year’s workshops include “Breast Casting for Womyn of Color,” “Healing Ways for Rising Amazons” and “Challenging Internalized Misogyny.” All work on the land, from the building of the stages and other facilities to the preparation of communal meals, is conducted by women. Michfest’s accommodations for disabled women and commitment to the inclusion and celebration of women who are queer, of color, working class, of size or gender non-conforming set a new standard for women’s events.
But rifts regarding the inclusion of trans women have been present in the women’s music scene from the beginning, which might account for why trans women are so underrepresented in women’s music. Preeminent women’s music label Olivia Records was forced to confront its definition of “womanhood” decades before Michfest did, in fact. Starting in 1976, Olivia was swamped with hate mail for employing a trans female lesbian recording engineer who was later attacked directly in Janice Raymond‘s 1979 transmisogynist hate screed, The Transsexual Empire: The Making of the She-Male. The transgender engineer was forced to leave Olivia, an early example of what would be decades of tension between lesbian feminists and trans women in music.
Michfest’s own controversy began in 1991, when a trans woman named Nancy Burkholder drove 1,050 miles from New Hampshire to Hart, Michigan, with her girlfriend Laura, to attend the festival for the second time. By nightfall on the first day of Festival, Nancy had been outed as transgender and subsequently dismissed from the festival. Her account of this horrifying situation was posted on Transadvocate last year:
We walked and talked with women waiting with us on the road, bought raffle tickets from a festival promoter, and joined women in joyous enthusiasm, camaraderie and expectation while we awaited the start of the festival…
…I was approached by two women, Chris Coyote and Del Kelleher. Chris said that she needed to speak with me regarding a serious and difficult matter. Sensing her urgency I suggested we move away from the women near the fire pit in order to talk privately. Chris said that the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival was a woman-only event and she wanted to know if I was a man. I replied that I was a woman and I showed her my NH picture ID driver’s license. Then she asked me if I was a transsexual. I asked her what was the point of her questioning and she replied that transsexuals were not permitted to attend the festival…
… She told me that I had I had to leave the festival and that I would not even be allowed to return to my campsite to retrieve my equipment. I realized that Chris and Del were expelling me in spite of all the irrefutable legal and anatomical proof that I was a woman. I knew there was nothing more I could say to these women. I resigned myself to the fact that these women were expelling me from the festival… From the time Del and Chris first approached me until I left the land, I was guarded and forbidden from leaving the area around the fire pit…
…. At about 12:50a.m. Laura returned with all of my equipment and her car. We departed the land. In less than two hours and under the cover of darkness, the festival personnel had expelled me from the land.
Protests against this policy began in 1992. That same year, a survey of Michfest attendees (with a response rate of 8.4%, or 633 of 7500 attendees) found 73.1% were in favor of transgender female inclusion. The “Camp Trans” counter-event protest began in 1994, when 30 activists held workshops near the Michfest site for three days. Camp Trans continued on and off for many years to mixed results. In 1998, the Washington DC wing of activist group Lesbian Avengers wrote Michfest organizers to state they would not continue attending the festival because “your womyn-born-womyn only policy is unnecessary, arbitrary, and harmful to our community.” Other Lesbian Avengers factions would participate in Camp Trans in ensuing years. Around that time, Michfest organizers claimed that activists from Son of Camp Trans had infiltrated the festival, flashed their penises in public showers and disrupted a teenage girl’s discussion group when in fact, it was a transgender man who’d had phalloplasty who was spotted in the showers. Camp Trans lulled for a bit before being re-ignited in 1999, as explained by Michelle Tea in her 2003 Believer essay, “Dispatches from Camp Trans,” but had become dominated by trans men. Camp Trans organizer Bryn Kelly explained, “I love Camp Trans and I love many of the people I have met there over the years, but if you compare the two, let’s face it, Camp Trans was always kind of a shit show. CT had probably about 2% of the budget of Michfest, so going to the Festival after having camped at CT for so many years kind of felt like being at Disneyland.”
Although momentum against the intention has been building at an increasingly rapid pace over the past few years, it bears mentioning that the “we support the inclusion of transgender folks but still plan to play the festival” line, expressed this year by Crystal Bowersox, has been brought out for 15 years to no real end. “Take a look at newsletters in the Lesbian Herstory Archives and you will see that we’ve been having the exact same arguments about this issue for the last thirty years,” Bryn Kelly told me.
In 2006, supporters of trans inclusion declared that the “womyn-born-womyn” intention was no longer in practice after a Camp Trans organizer was sold a ticket, but their press release was met with a swift rebuttal from Lisa Vogel reiterating that “Despite claims to the contrary by Camp Trans organizers, the Festival remains a rare and precious space intended for womyn-born womyn.”
Trans women who have attended Michfest feel a profound dissonance on the land. “I cut myself off after one beer, because I was afraid if I did anything even accidentally stupid, it would not just reflect badly on me, but on ALL TRANS WOMEN FOREVER,” Bryn said. “Supposedly, this festival is about being able to let your guard down; I had mine up the whole time.”
“There was definitely some intense hostility, but for every scowl directed my way, there were ten smiles,” Tobi remembered. “For everyone who told me I shouldn’t be there, there were five people inviting me to parties or to work with them. For every person who harassed me, there were three who held me in their arms and consoled me about that harassment… but at a certain point, the presence of negativity can’t be cancelled out just by having other people be positive.”
Considering the overwhelming support for inclusion from festival performers and the apparent solidarity of a majority of ‘fest attendees, it remains profoundly confusing why the policy persists. In our annual Autostraddle reader survey, for which 94% of respondents were between the ages of 18 and 44, only .4% (13 people) of over 4,000 said they’d been to Michfest, and only 5% said they planned to or wanted to attend. So, in total, only 5.4% of our readers wanted to or had attended Michfest — and 46% had never even heard of it. Other events pulled in radically higher numbers of respondents who had or wanted to attend, even events that weren’t explicitly queer: 52% for A-Camp, 39% for Comic Con, 35% for South by Southwest and 22.4% for Dinah Shore Weekend. Even Olivia Cruises — the only remaining wing of the Olivia Records empire — pulled in an 11.3%. Although Michfest ranks above Aqua Girl, Girls in Wonderland, GaymerX and R Family Vacations in terms of popularity and reputation, it’s also less well-known or desired than Lesbians Who Tech, a conference that just started this year but was extensively covered by and advertised on Autostraddle.
Michfest isn’t incapable of evolution — early festivals were criticized for designing the event from a white middle-class perspective, lacking women of color performers, and appropriating indigenous spiritualities, symbols and practices. Now it’s one of the most racially diverse women’s events in the country. The addition in 1986 of a womyn-of-color only sanctuary also helped encourage solidarity and change. The 2014 lineup poster features 32 acts — 64% of those acts are women of color. That kind of diversity is amazing and unprecedented and undoubtedly would be inspirational to the many trans women of color who are unwelcome at festival, despite being the most oppressed group within the LGBTQ umbrella. Why can’t Michfest evolve on transgender issues, too?
Which Side Are You On
The justification for this policy is approximately this: that cisgender women experience a “shared experience of girlhood” honored by the womyn-born-womyn policy and violated by transgender women, who organizers argue grew up with male privilege and would contaminate a “healing space.” There’s also often talk of the sexual violence inflicted upon women who may be triggered by the sight of penises on the land (despite the fact that realistic dildos are sold in open public spaces). Often that trusty ol’ straw man of “men will sneak in by pretending to be women and then assault us” is trotted out as well.
First of all, transgender women are more likely to be victims of sexual violence than any other group. Secondly, the concept of a “shared girlhood” universal amongst all women fails on a few fronts, like that it ignores the ways in which different intersectional identities mean that experiences of girlhood vary extraordinarily widely, and vastly overestimates the impact of male privilege on the life of a transgender girl.
It ignores that “not all women are equally privileged or oppressed,” writes transgender “social justice activist/writer/rogue intellectual ” Emi Koyama in her 2006 essay Whose Feminism Is It Anyway?. She writes that “…in the women’s communities, trans(gender) existence is particularly threatening to white middle-class lesbian-feminists because it exposes not only the unreliableness of the body as a source of their identities and politics, but also the fallacy of women’s universal experiences and oppressions. These valid criticisms against feminist identity politics have been made by women of color and working class women all along, and white middle-class women have traditionally dismissed them by arguing that they are patriarchal attempts to trivialize women’s oppression and bring down feminism.”
Personally, I’ve found that class, race, ability status and gender presentation bear enormously on the nature of every individual woman’s girlhood and that one’s relative privilege is a far greater predictor of a degree of commonality than gender assigned at birth alone.
Besides, “considering how much “male energy” is used as an excuse to target trans women,” Tobi said, “one thing that really surprised me was just how much male energy there was. Within the first 30 minutes of arriving at the main stage, one musician sang a song about her cock and another one was introduced with male pronouns… by the end of the day I’d met a half dozen trans men, most of whom had been attending for years and were well known.”
The Woods Are Disappearing
“What I fear more, what I fear most, more than man, the beast, or the ghost, is that the woods are disappearing.”
– Dar Williams, “Go to The Woods”
There are women who have always attended the festival and always will. Much like repeat attendees of A-Camp, the annual camp/conference/festival hybrid primarily aimed at queer women that Autostraddle hosts in the San Bernardino mountains every year, these dedicated festies consider Festival “home” and a sacred time to convene with friends/”chosen family” in a familiar space. But in order to survive, Michfest will need to attract a new generation of women, and that’s not gonna happen if they don’t change the policy. Acts that would appeal to a younger audience — like Andrea Gibson, MEN and Hunter Valentine — won’t play the festival ’til the policy changes. Meanwhile, there are other options for the people MichFest aims to attract — like A-Camp, which has always been open to trans women attendees. For many campers (and staff members!), A-Camp is the only place where they even have the opportunity to meet and befriend trans women, a crucial exchange for political progress and productive allyship, which’s one of many reasons why we prioritize trans women when distributing camperships (we do the same for women of color).
It saddens me every time a trans woman emails us before signing up for A-Camp to make sure she’s “allowed” to attend. It shouldn’t surprise me, but it does. Michfest reflects poorly on lesbian feminism in general and, unfortunately, as Tobi pointed out to me, Michfest’s intention “has wide-reaching repercussions as feminist organizations around the world look to it as a model and have used it as a justification to keep trans women out of rape crisis clinics, domestic violence shelters, and other vital resources.”
I realize that Lisa Vogel probably feels like young peoples’ perspective on this issue is hopelessly ahistorical because a lot of modern queer politics are hopelessly ahistorical, much to the chagrin of those looking to build community between generations. I know how easy it can be to cling to traditional politics, partially because opposition to them is being preached by people quick to discount and disrespect decades of genuinely productive and progressive, if flawed, activism, over a very recent failure to “keep up.” But this isn’t a new issue. This has been going on for decades, and led by activists from multiple generations; it’s only now that the fight against the “intention” has gone gaystream.
This year’s lineup includes really talented and incredible acts that undoubtedly are limited, by their politics, race, sexual orientation, gender presentation or some combination therein, to the types of gigs they’re solicited for and therefore their ability to survive economically. Michfest makes these women choose between financial survival and allyship. Michfest makes volunteers and festival attendees choose between the only place they’ve felt accepted as a fat/disabled/butch/of-color/queer woman and allyship. Michfest creates personal riffs, too — I can’t imagine how awful it must be, as a trans woman, to see your cis friends and/or partner(s) attend an event you can’t attend. This needs to stop. We have to be better than this.
Next year marks the 40th Anniversary of Michfest, and I can’t think of a better opportunity to change the intention. It will be a fuller and more productive festival with a more robust lineup of performers and an environment that encourages compassion over division. “Denouncing Michfest as outdated, irrelevant or out-of-touch will only dig our enemies in deeper and drive potential allies away,” wrote Kayley Whalen. “Even worst, if we do we lose the opportunity to bridge the gap between generations of feminists, and divorce ourselves from our own history. An inclusive festival can inject new life into our collective fight against sexism, racism, classism, homophobia and transphobia.”
Holy shit, did an AS article just link to one of my tumblr posts?
I’m starstruck. I need to lie down for a moment.
ooh cool! I was the op of the post you responded to!
Thanks for this, it was an interesting read. I’ve been aware of MichFest’s existence for a fair while now, but the extent of my awareness was “it’s a big festival where I can’t go”, and occasionally worrying that I’d discover some artist I like is performing there… thanks for filling the gaps in!
I suppose after reading this, my opinion of it is: let it die.
I also think it’s going to die (I think a reversal is too long due and the chance has passed), but I view it with a bit more sadness now that I know more about its inception.
I am oodles younger than the people who can remember anything about MichFest, but I feel like this festival was created (in, of course, selective ways) with a much more sincere vision of inclusiveness than many of the events of my generation (the people in their late teens and early twenties now) – childcare, signing, accessibility, different camp grounds for partiers and quiet timers and the like.
Sure, the (non-festival) events that are available to me and that I attend on occasion are trans-inclusive and often pay-what-you-can, but they are also often based on partying and sexual or romantic availability, and held without much sincere thought about wheelchair accessibility or other disabilities, or responsibilities (like children).
I wouldn’t dream of attending MichFest and wouldn’t feel welcome there (as in all spaces that are like *LETS CELEBRATE UR GIRLHOOD*), on top of the fact that the place is apparently filled with trans men, but I do feel that with the death of this festival, a reminder will die that these accommodations are in line with an old queer tradition, and perfectly doable.
Riese, reading your response to me on tumblr, and reading all of this here has been deeply moving. When I came out, hardly a year ago, I was terrified and alone and the closest thing to any kind of real queer women’s experience I had was reading this website every day.
Seeing this, it actually makes me feel like I belong to something. Something bigger than myself, with this dinky old laptop and a few trans friends and partners halfway across the country from me. I often feel despondent trying to cope, to varying degrees of success, with poverty and social isolation, and this article, and articles like it, make me feel like maybe there’s a place for me in this world and in this community.
Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
Basically my thoughts, written far more eloquently than I could ever manage.
<3 thank you!
Reposted from my facebook
“The article on Michfest I’ve been waiting for.
When I was thinking of going to A-Camp and how it might be for someone like me (a trans woman, early in my transition, not exactly passing in so many ways) and all I had to go on was how I thought trans women were perceived by the “women who love women” crowd. I would read stories about Michfest and the “no bio-cock allowed” scenes around the country. I would read about women’s experience with “the cotton ceiling” and then other women denying it, claiming that any trans women who shows sexual frustration is “rapey” and trying to force themselves on “real lesbians”. I truly felt alone and abandoned as a queer woman, before I went to A-Camp. While I walked around that campsite I carried a lot of internalized feelings with me I may never get over, but I know now that there is at least a small corner of the world that I can call home. Riese and the rest at Autostraddle make that possible and I couldn’t be more grateful for letting me in.”
Riese, I never got a chance to tell you in person while I was there, but I want you to know that what you (and everyone at autostraddle) have done for me, what you’ve created for queer people is more important than you know.
thank you for coming to a-camp and thank you for this. so much <3 <3 <3
The cotton ceiling argument is rapey. No-one is entitled to sex under any circumstances. I have regularly been frustrated without saying other people have to have sex with me or they’re bigots. I don’t care what reason a person has for turning down sex – that’s their prerogative.
Honestly, I’ve absolutely never heard any trans woman ever describe the cotton ceiling in the way you just did (I’m sure there’s someone out there but its mostly cis people who describe it that way. Its not about some warped trans version of “the friendzone”, noone is ever entitled to sex with anyone else. You’re not a bigot if you wont have sex with me, you’re a bigot if you “tolerate” trans women but you do not fully accept them as women. It is my firm belief that trans women have just as much right to be in and accepted in women/queer spaces as any other queer women, you’re preoccupation with what I may or may not have between my legs. Too many women have told me straight faced that me and people like me do not have the right to define ourselves as lesbians (I’m Bisexual personally), I had an otherwise intelligent women tell me she just couldn’t understand how a trans women could possibly be a lesbian. The cotton ceiling is about acknowledging the fact that those who should understand most (other queer women), often fail the biggest.
*That “you’re” in there was supposed to be “your”, ment in the abstract, not in any direct way*
The ‘cotton’ part of the cotton ceiling term is about underwear ie sex. The workshop where the term was coined by Drew Deveaux was called Overcoming (?!) the cotton ceiling and was explicitly about sex and explicitly about chastising women for making choices about who they wanted to sleep with. Like its the name of the thing, I’m not misconstruing anything.
@Matt: “the cotton ceiling… was explicitly about sex and explicitly about chastising women for making choices about who they wanted to sleep with”
You absolutely are misconstruing. The cotton ceiling workshop that appeared at the Planned Parenthood conference was about giving lesbian trans women who felt hurt and excluded a space to talk about that openly with other trans women.
That was the second event. The first event (No More Apologies), was held at another venue in Toronto and there were maybe a hundred cis women in attendance and maybe thirty trans women. That was where the cotton ceiling metaphor was proposed by Drew Deveaux and described in detail and not a single cis woman in attendance expressed any issue with that description. It was only a group of radical feminists that weren’t there and had nothing to do with the conference that invented this rape-coercion theory and started spreading it all over the internet and using it to carry out personal defamation attacks on anyone involved with those conferences.
The analogy in the cotton ceiling was actually inappropriate, for the record; however, it was a discussion among us trans women feminists that lead to the conclusion that it wasn’t the right metaphor for a variety reasons, and most of us have abandoned it (and I would encourage others to do likewise). Meanwhile radical feminists, who talked about it so much yet somehow managed to contribute so little of value to that conversation, have twisted it into a part of their bizarre obsessive conspiracy theories about trans women.
Riese, your wonderful and compassionate article speaks volumes to transwomen of the courage and understanding of you and the other women at AutoStraddle, of what can be difficult for some to grasp……that translesbians are females emotionally and intellectually….and we seek heart to heart emotional connection with another woman ……
Thank you for being your AMAZING self!……..and creating such a brilliant and wonderful, welcoming site for all of us “special females”!
Riese, I love your herstory pieces so much. I’m sad the festival will die off rather than change. I remember challenging a friend who attended about how she could support the Fest. “I think the issue is the communal showers,” she replied. Wut. Really. This petty worry that someone’s genitals might squick someone else out is not a reason to exclude a group of women from the Fest. My two favorite queer spaces (A-Camp and Mad Femme Pride) are trying to be inclusive of trans women, and this makes them so much stronger and more fun. If I’m going to be hanging out with my sisters, I want ALL of my sisters with me. DUH LISA VOGEL. She should come to A-Camp and experience what she is missing.
I believe the worry is that some people’s genitals will trigger other people &to call being triggered being “squicked out” is really disgustingly ableist.
As stated in the article, though, “There’s also often talk of the sexual violence inflicted upon women who may be “triggered” by the sight of penises on the land (despite the fact that realistic dildos are sold in open public spaces).”
This isn’t to minimize the impact of people being triggered, you understand, but if that’s a serious concern then they’re kind of already failing at it.
dildos and actual penises aren’t the same at all.
I honestly don’t care about Michfest and would rather it fade into oblivion for a variety of reasons, but I haaaaaate the equating of actual penises with dildos. It makes me want to hit someone over the head with a dildo. That’s the logic dudes do when they tell me I should like dick because lesbians use dildos anyway. No. No. No. Use a different/better/less factually inaccurate argument.
Woya, I’m sure different people have different views on the matter, and I was careful to point out the statement as written in the article. I wouldn’t presume to assume that every person who is triggered by penises is also triggered by realistic dildos, but I also wouldn’t assume that there’s no overlap, either.
Also, I think it’s possible that you could have presented your point in a way that doesn’t draw a line between what I was saying and what is said by heterocentrist straight guys. I don’t appreciate the comparison.
@TheDrDonna it’s literally the same equating, saying there’s not a difference between a dildo and a penis. There is. I just don’t like hearing that equating in queer women’s circles when I also hear it from men. It’s literally the same wording and makes me not only uncomfortable but it’s just not accurate.
Anyway, again, I’m not defending the Michfest position. I’m just saying let’s please use arguments that aren’t word-for-word what I hear from cis dudes all the damn time.
And I agree with @Andreea that I don’t like a PTSD triggering being called “being squicked out.” I don’t know. I just think we need to be careful with our wording here, so we don’t make people who have very real PTSD feel bad about it or use inaccurate/problematic equating while we take down Michfest’s stupid policies.
Woya, again, I took great care not to make light of people being triggered.
As you say, let’s use arguments that actually make a sound rebuttal, rather than “your statement is discounted because it’s similar to a statement by this other group of people that it is assumed we both find objectionable”. As you said, there are differences between actual penises and dildos, but my point is that just as I cannot say that all people who are triggered by penises would feel the same way about dildos, you cannot say that no person who is triggered by penises would be triggered by a realistic dildo. I’m quite certain that the Fest didn’t poll attendees before having that stuff on display. I’m not trying to say that you support the Fest or their policies, but what I do want to say is that your experiences and opinions with regard to dildos are not universal, and I’m displeased that my statement to that effect has led to my comparison to crappy dudes.
The implication that women who say they’re triggered by penises are probably lying if they’re not also triggered by dildos is also v ableist. You’re supposed to believe women, esp women who are survivors of violence / abuse, when they tell you they’re being triggered by something, not try to test them and only believe them when they’ve earned it by acting the way YOU think someone with PTSD should act.
I’ve also just noticed that the original article puts triggered in quotation marks like being triggered isn’t even a real thing, like it’s preposterous to suggest any woman could ever be triggered… This is also really not okay.
I couldn’t care less about Michfest and I’ve never wanted to go, but every time this is discussed, lots of people mock women who have PTSD and say horrible things about us and it’s v upsetting.
I very clearly did not say that women couldn’t be triggered by penises. I also very clearly didn’t imply that anyone was lying. Furthermore, I didn’t make any claims about how any woman should act when being triggered. The only way you could think that I had said that was if you didn’t read what I said, or if you intentionally ignored it. Which would be pretty ironic, given that you appear to be accusing me of not listening to women.
Obviously my last comment should be @Andreea.
DrDonna, I just wanted to clarify (or add my interpretation) some of the comments you were responding to. I don’t think they were talking about your comments some of the times that you thought they were- it was Jess who called being triggered “squicked out” and Riese who wrote “trigger” with quotes, which feels like she is questioning the validity of these women’s responses- like being triggered isn’t a real thing or isn’t serious. Both of these are disrespectful to women with PTSD. I think that whether MichFest is doing a good job of dealing with the issue of protecting the well being of women with PTSD is a real issue (e.g. could there be curtains put around a few showers to make a few solo showers for anyone who is triggered by nudity? totally spit balling as i’ve never been to Mitchfest or made my own showers). but some of the comments suggest that whether there are women who are triggered by penises or whether that response is acceptable is up for discussion. (as though women could easily control their PTSD. If it was optional, wouldn’t we all just choose to stop having it?). That attitude is what I have a problem with.
@Abby, that makes more sense. I assumed that since they were responding to my post, they were specifically directing that response at me. Then things were compounded further when it seemed that they were telling me “don’t tell women how to feel ( as if that was what I was doing), and also women aren’t triggered by dildos (as though they could speak for all women).”
Honestly, my opinion on all this is best summed up by @GhostBirb downthread.
those weren’t intended to be scare quotes, they were quote-quotes, as in i was quoting language from the source material. i have now removed them to prevent anyone else interpreting them as scare quotes.
@Woya, regarding dildos v. penises, isn’t the argument (re: jeering men who question your orientation) that the object in question is attached to a woman you like, rather than a random dude?
Of course, dildos and penises are different because one of them is readily removable, but they can also look and feel extremely similar, to a point where I think the line should be drawn around the circumstances rather than the object itself.
Imagery is also important. People and their triggers and/or preferences are different, of course, but speaking only for myself, I am much more at ease with a glimpse of a man taking a shower or otherwise non-sexually naked than I am with seeing realistic dildos which often have actually exaggerated features (veininess, size, detail, etc.) that make them seem to me even more aggressive and strange than a flesh-and-blood appendage. I got the feeling that you were implying that dildos were necessarily more neutral or safe-looking then their live counterparts.
@Turkish, the solution is to have an area with non-communal showers. I don’t think anyone is arguing that the organizers of MichFest don’t have some transphobic beliefs. The issue is that you don’t need to delegitimize the needs of women with PTSD in order to address the transphobia. solo showers would be a neutral solution that would not separate trans women from cis women, it would separate anyone who is triggered by nudity of any kind from people who are not. But saying that it doesn’t matter that some women have special needs is disrespectful and discriminatory. There is no need to fight transphobia by discriminating against women who have a potentially debilitating disorder when we can find ways to address the needs of women with penises and women who are triggered by penises at the same time.
@Abby I am not delegitimizing the concerns ofwomen with PTSD or saying they should be discriminated against in favor of supporting trans women. I am a former rape victim who has had issues with PTSD myself. I am simply asking what the solution to the issue is because not allowing trans women(and the assumption still is that all trans women must have penises) at these events period is not it IMO. I have no real objection to non-communal showers if that’s what it takes but I just feel this whole conversation of Michfest got a bit derailed with discussion of penises as if all trans women have them and I am just pointing out that is not the case nor is it an excuse to exclude them.
@Woya the point is that, though some people might be triggered at the sight of penises but not any kind of dildos, there are also (far more commonly) people triggered by both.
The people supporting michfest under the pretense that they care so much about the former group of survivors… don’t care at all about the latter.
I agree this was handled badly on every front and I’m sorry for that :(
In that case, why are trans men who have had bottom surgery welcomed at Michfest?
The thing is – with all the respect in the world for PTSD sufferers – responding to the real need to support women who might be triggered by other women’s bodies by blanket excluding a segment of women from a women’s space; by labelling those women’s bodies unacceptably, inherently triggering and threatening? That’s monstrous. It’d be monstrous whatever kind of woman’s body it were applied to.
I have no doubt some women would be triggered by my non-white body, by butch bodies or fat bodies or tall bodies. That doesn’t make those women bad people: triggers are individual and unpredictable and rooted in not only specific experiences, but specific elements of those experiences. But we do not, we cannot ever let this be used as an excuse by racists, homophobes, transmisogynists to commit violence against women whose bodies happen to trigger someone else under the auspice of protection.
“with all the respect in the world for PTSD sufferers, what if you start saying you’re triggered by all these random things that people virtually never say they’re triggered by, while being triggered by penises is v common bc most sexual assaults are perpetrated by cis men ?? it’s a very Slippery Slope. you could be triggered by /anything/, if we give in and make accommodations for you, who’s to say that we won’t end up having to turn away women of colour from events? of course nobody’s ever heard of a major women’s event that was white-only because white women claimed women of colour triggered them, but you never know what disabled people are capable of… I have all the respect in the world for you but it’s clear that you shouldn’t be asking for any accommodations”
Andreea: you’re saying ‘make accommodations’ as if we didn’t all know exactly what Michfest’s idea of ‘accommodations’ look like, here and now, and their consequences. Legitimising the exclusion of women from a women’s space because our bodies are deemed unacceptable; the reinforcement and justification of transmisogynistic tropes within feminism and the wider culture which paint us as a threat to cis women. To be blunt, these are things which continue to kill my sisters.
I’m all for making accommodations. I suffer PTSD from rape myself (and am triggered by ‘random things’ other than genitals, and thanks, by the way). I want women to be safe. Michfest should absolutely be providing places for women who are triggered by other women’s bodies to shower, to change etc in private. But excluding an entire class of woman, or supporting misogynist slander against us by segregating us as a threat, cannot ever be an option. That’s why I brought up other hypothetical triggers – I’m not suggesting it’s a slippery slope so much as illustrating how horrifying the idea of removing an entire class of women as ‘accommodations’ for anyone, for any reason, would be.
I’m saying “accommodations” because this is the language that the disability rights movement uses and I want it to be clear that this is an issue about disability. This kind of language is widely used e.g. http://blogs.oregonstate.edu/dasblog/2012/01/31/ableism-and-language/ if you don’t believe me.
Although I probably shouldn’t even have bothered to talk about accommodations because what is at stake here isn’t whether or not women with PTSD deserve accommodations, but whether or not their triggers are even real. People are saying women with PTSD who are triggered by penises are no different from homophobes who supported DADT and suggesting that they’ll probably start trying to reinforce segregation soon if we let them have too much power. The mention of dildos being sold in public was clearly meant to imply that the women who say they’re triggered are inconsistent and thus lying. You’ve almost called women who are triggered by penises monsters for feeling triggered by a whole group of women? It’s constantly suggested and implied (perhaps not stated outright because you know you might get in trouble for it) that women are lying about being triggered, I don’t know how anyone can claim otherwise.
So what is the solution then Andreea? If some women are triggered by penises(and nobody is saying that they are lying or that that isn’t valid btw) then does that mean that we should exclude all trans women from being able to attend this festival period? Or just the ones that are pre op or post op? Because like I say further down, not every trans woman still has a penis. And if we exclude all trans women from this women’s event then what about the trans men? Not all trans men still have vaginas. Some are post op and have penises. So then we exclude all trans people period from attending then right? Where do we draw the line on this issue?
And I personally made the comparison to pro DADT support and objections to gay athletes competing in professional leagues because those same arguments WERE used in defense of wanting to keep LBGT people out. Of course that didn’t happen but that was their reasoning. Are the arguments by some straight men that we should exclude all LBGT people from the military and pro leagues because they are afraid of inappropriate physical contact really all that different an argument than some CIS women saying they don’t want all trans women(again pre or post op) at MichFest because they don’t want to be triggered in the bathroom/showers? Should that be the policy for everyone and if so how is that not inherently transphobic to do so?
Don’t pretend you give a fuck about survivors. You’re well known for coming into threads about trans women to spread vitriolic hatred against us using whatever excuse you can, and appropriating survivors’ experiences to try to justify it is disgusting and inhuman.
Far, far more trans women are survivors of violence. You don’t give a fuck about us, about our needs and safety, you just use other survivors as a cudgel against us. Trans women survivors have literally died of exposure outside shelters because of exclusive policies like these. You don’t give a fuck about survivors, we’re just tools and weapons to you.
Seeing people who look sufficiently like my abusers triggers the fuck out of me. This does not mean they have a responsibility to keep themselves, their bodies, out of my view. The idea that it does is literally only used as a weapon against more marginalized groups.
Ugh, I’d forgotten to add in the previous reply.
The exclusion of trans women has nothing to do with genitalia. Nothing, zilch, zip. That is not a criteria at all. It is based solely on birth assignment and has nothing to do with someone’s genitals.
” I remember challenging a friend who attended about how she could support the Fest. “I think the issue is the communal showers,” she replied. Wut. Really. ”
Hmm. You know many homophobes used that same argument as to why Michael Sam shouldn’t be in the NFL or gay athletes shouldn’t be allowed in professional sports period. The same excuses were also used to justify DADT for many years. “What about the locker rooms?”, What if he or she hits on me?”, “What if he or she touches me inappropriately?” I would extremely uncomfortable with coming off like I am no better than straight people who want to exclude LBGT folks from various things for similar reasons.
Frankly. If the organizers of MichFest are determined not to change their policies then that’s fine. That is their right I guess. But in doing that they just have to deal with the consequences, which look to be that they lose performers/supporters and possibly risk not being able to put on another festival. Actions have consequences. And transphobia is never cute. I don’t have time for Lisa Vogel or anybody who supports MichFest’s policies.
This is a very important discussion on very levels. I am a translesbian who has a penis and I have had real OCD since I was a child. I see both issues, . as well as the general issue of a penis on a transfemale should not be imagined or thought of like a lesbian or straight woman would of a penis on a male.
I have learned a lot by this discussion so far. Learning about each other’s emotions and experiences and thoughts is so enlightening. Thanks to all of you.
“I have learned a lot by this discussion so far. Learning about each other’s emotions and experiences and thoughts is so enlightening. Thanks to all of you.”
@Sarah thank you for this comment. I often feel a bit annoyed when people get into debates like this (usually because I feel like they are missing important pieces of the article), but you are so right that listening to others’s emotions and experiences is enlightening. Thanks for the positive boost to my day and further comment reading habits.
The assumption is that all of these trans women are pre-op and still have penises to begin with. And if trans women(pre or post op) aren’t allowed then why are trans men allowed? Are they not men? Clearly the people at Michfest consider trans men to still be women first and foremost. Whether they have had surgery or not.
Julia Serrano touches on this. Their(MichFest and their supports) argument is that trans men have male energy. I personally do no understand how some of the trans men who go there, accept the idea that they are seen a female/lesbian. Julia even says in one of her posts that for 51 weeks a year trans men have the privilege of being male, but then 1 week a year they get to be lesbians, which is like an insult to the trans community as a whole.
Whoops that should have said their argument is trans men don’t have male energy.
The obvious solution to the problem of people being triggered by certain types of genitalita is to ensure that there are always private spaces to shower and change for those who need them. I’m sure there are many people who, whether because of PTSD, cultural reasons, or simply personal preference prefer not to be naked in front of strangers or to veiw other naked strangers. Though they shouldn’t be confined to this choice, I’m sure many pre/non-op trans women are among those who would prefer a litte more privacy. I imagine that having to out yourself to people you just met in order to take a shower would be a deeply uncomfortable, even frightening, experience for many people.
Clearly there would be some expense involoved in updating facilities to make his possible (assuming these facilities are not already available, I’m not totally clear on that), but I can’t imagine that installing some partitions would be all that expensive as projects go. I don’t think that the concerns about people being triggered should be dismissed, but keeping out an entire group of women as a result (many of whom as also sexual assault survivors who could really use a safe space) is absolutely not the solution. If Mich fest wants to be truly accomodating, providing an adequate amount of privacy is essential.
“The obvious solution to the problem of people being triggered by certain types of genitalita is to ensure that there are always private spaces to shower and change for those who need them.”
Thank you for this. I really do apologize for minimizing the experiences of women with PTSD. I felt bad immediately after I wrote it and assume I’d get called out, so thank you. What I wanted to convey was that this issue — whether of the triggering nature of a penis or just thinly veiled disgust with trans women’s bodies — was being framed as an insurmountable problem by my friend. Like, the implication was that everyone at MichFest HAS to bathe TOGETHER and if someone triggers or offends someone else, then they have to leave. This is not accommodating to tons of people. (I have never been to MichFest nor do I know the entire Shower Situation there.) If we want to spend time together, we have to work with each other’s triggers and histories and all that. Some creative solutions, such as private bathing areas, would seem to help this be accomplished.
You consistently come in with the most diplomatic suggestions and explanations in the midst of heated discussion. Thank you.
But she can’t can she, due to the fact that it’s marketed towards a millennial age group.
Brilliant article, Riese. It’s so disheartening to learn that so many policies we use to make queer spaces more inclusive and safer were started at a festival that is simultaneously so blind to its own painful practices. Cognitive dissonance, indeed.
Also, good play on Mary Lambert for the title. Finally, a lesbian song reference that I get!!
I loved reading this article- a great in-depth exploration of the issue and the context. While part of me would be happy to see the fest go away, I know that that would be destructive for everyone involved. Many women (and some men) who attend would be deprived of a healing place and community. Many trans women would (continue to) be deprived of that same sense of communal respite. And, not to put too fine a point on it, those who are currently pushing most loudly for trans exclusion would invariably blame trans people for the consequences of their own actions, similar to the religious adoption agencies who would rather shut down than place children in gay families. Nobody benefits, everyone loses.
Well written and well said Riese.
Want to add more but being constructive is difficult when the topic is something that’s been a berserk button since I was 13. An angry 13 year old feminist bursting with non-ironic misandry and a watered down Dworkin-esque dogma that could recognize transwomen as her sisters. Still angry and disappointed in my elders.
But very hopeful for the wonderful space Autostraddle is and the influence y’all have.
Forgot to add that o – o
Thanks for this insightful and well-researched article!
Very interesting article, it sounds like a complete change of core management beliefs would be required to guarantee it’s future. It will be sad to see something so long lived shrink and die…but perhaps a phoenix will rise (With new management…and intentions).
It’s a dilemma between leadership and responsibility. To a certain extent by enabling people to parrot certain views, through strong seemingly logical verbal speeches and sound bites, you are removing the impetus for them to make a clear personal decision.
By you* I don’t mean Autostraddle, I mean any person in a position of leadership.
This is so thorough and a really great examination of the situation – snaps for this. And hella major snaps for the tumblr post owning up to previous transphobia! It’s one of the biggest things I appreciate about Autostraddle, that willingness to admit when you’ve fucked up in the past and to explain how you are trying to do better today. <3
Fantastic stuff, and I want to say a huge thanks again to Riese and Autostraddle in general for their support of real lesbian and feminist solidarity.
1. Well, there goes my support for Staceyann Chin
2. Even if Michfest did become trans inclusive, their stubbornness in changing has left a bad taste in my mouth and I don’t want to go.
This is wonderful Riese! Never been more proud of our A-Camp!
I love Michfest and have been in attendance for 11 years (since I was a teen). I have no plans on discontinuing my support for the one place that still allows me to be who I am freely. When Lisa has sent out emails regarding the intention, my reading of them has always been “womyn born womyn” is subjective and if you feel like that identifies you, then feel free to attend. And personally, my “policy” is that if you are on The Land, you are my sister. . .
In the interest of academic (non-disparaging) discourse, I question why it is so important for *this* specific festival to invite transwomen to attend when there are many other options. Additionally, would it be okay for a cis-gendered woman feel entitled to be a part of spaces meant for only transwomen? As a respectful human being, I know that not every place is meant for me– there is a womyn of color space at michfest, for example. Why is there such a sense of need to either be entitled/invited into a space for female-bodied individuals or to destroy it for the 3000 people who like going? What point is it proving to take something away from this handful of people? Who wins when fest no longer exists?
I’m sorry, is you message something like ‘trans women should get their own festival’?
Because if that’s the case I strongly encourage you to wake up and realize that the economic opportunities of trans women to create something like this are next to null.
And to answer your question: nobody wins when this fest no longer exists. But when it no longer exists, it won’t be the fault of trans women but the fault of an enduring inside unwillingness to change. Just like many things that disappear, in fact.
And also, why this festival and not another? Because it’s the only festival that celebrates womanhood, that is specifically centered around being a woman. Not just is it beneficial for such a festival to have, indeed, a maximum diversity of forms of womanhood present, it would also be great for trans women who desire to attend to participate in having their womanhood celebrated. Healing indeed.
As somebody who has been to both Fest and A-Camp (and stopped attending Fest after the second time, when I realized change was unlikely to happen but will continue attending Camp until I’m old enough to be a wizened old benefactor), I think the important thing is that most or dare I say, all us aren’t working to actively destroy Fest.
Just like Riese is saying, Fest will wither and die if it doesn’t consider the fact that the tide has turned and we, the folks who would go, count trans women as our own, do NOT see our most vulnerable populations as a threat, and don’t attend events where our friends, family, and loved ones aren’t welcome. If this is Lisa Vogel’s very large private party…well, that’s her decision. But if this is an event for women, then they need to consider what past, present, and future women say about the event.
I think part of the issue for me is the concept of “punching up vs punching down”. There are lots of axes of privilege in our society, such as white/of color, rich/poor, able-bodied/disabled. I believe, strongly, that cisgender/transgender is another axis, and that cisgender is at the privileged end of that axis. For that reason, I wouldn’t view trans people’s exclusion the same way I view white people’s exclusion from an event for people of color, but rather the way I would view people of color’s exclusion from a gathering “for white people”. It’s important to look at the context of privilege in this issue.
There is a difference between the more oppressed members of a broader group having their own spaces and the more privledged members choosing to exclude those who are more vulnerable. Most women’s spaces are designed primarily with cis women in mind (understandable, if unfortunate, given that most women are cis). We don’t need special cis only spaces, just as white people don’t need white only spaces, because almost every space is already designed to be comfortable for cis people.
It would be one thing to confine a workshop focusing on, say, mensturation, to people who mensturate. There would at least be some logic in that. However, when a festival is supposed to be a celebration of womanhood it does not make sense to exclude an entire group of women. Using the shared experience of girlhood as a reason to exclude trans women is very disengenuous – as a white cis woman born into a feminist family my experience of girlhood differs fundementally from that of women of color or from women of any race born into a family that did not support the equality of women. My experience differs in some ways, and is similar in other ways to the experiences of my sisters, trans and cis, and that’s fine. Our differences are something to learn from, not something that needs to seperate us.
Focusing on a “shared girlhood” also implies that trans women were never girls, which is problematic.
It’s like, okay. An internationally famous festival for women is giving support and legitimacy to the idea that some garbled half-understanding of early-years social development, which totally disregards trans women’s testimony about our own lives, means there is and always will be this bright dividing line between us and cis women. That patriarchy has it right, and ‘women-born women’ are the real women. Further, that our presence threatens the sanctity of ‘women’s’ spaces, that we are ourselves a threat to cis women. All of this baseless nonsense is exactly the justification used to keep the enormous number of trans women in crisis out of DV shelters and away from rape victims’ resources, to call the parents of trans kids child abusers. To ally with right-wingers and slander us as rapists, deny us access to public bathrooms and changing rooms, for christ’s sake. To try to mandate us out of existence by making it easier for men to kill us.
So seeing an event with this kind of social reach planting its flag there, saying to a transmisogynist culture that this is a position it’s acceptable to take, an opinion that feminists stand beside you in taking? Creating an echo chamber where bigots are free to spread lies without trans women to challenge them, where organisations literally dedicated to stripping us of civil rights distribute flyers? Ultimately using one of the most prominent women’s events to broadcast that ‘trans women aren’t really women’ is the radical-lesbian-feminist stance? Because that’s certainly how it’s read, intentional or not.
That has consequences for all of us, everywhere, far beyond not being welcome at some music festival. I’m not super inclined to worry that I’m spoiling three thousand people’s fun, knowing what’s at stake just having a policy like this exist.
That said, I really do hope Michfest gets its shit together rather than shuts down (although to be kind of brutally honest, either is better than the harm it’s doing now, and that’s a sad thing to say). Every time trans women are allowed into a ‘women’s’ space and none of the terrors that are supposed to follow actually show up, it weakens the hell out of the scaremongering nonsense that’s used to justify discrimination. If Michfest is the super positive space I’m told it is, I want my sisters to have access to that. And honestly, just getting to meet some trans women face-to-face, getting to share in some damn solidarity and hear our stories in a space that’s not set up to undermine and attack us, that stuff does wonders reminding trans-exclusionists who their enemies aren’t.
Who you choose as your sisters is particularly telling.
Just declaring that your discourse is ~academic~ and ~non-disparaging~ doesn’t excuse any of the dehumanizing transmisogynist things you went on to say. It’s a transparent attempt to silence any critique, then paint yourself as a victim of ~angry~ responses.
Trans women do not have institutional power over cis women. Cis women DO have institutional power over trans women. (Gonna add that a white person using racism as a metaphor for some other form of oppression is appropriative and racist.)
A more appropriate analogy for MichFest would be a straight-women-only space. Some parallels between the rhetoric for that are obvious – that our existence makes (straight) women feel unsafe, attacking “mannish” appearances; women’s attraction to women being just like straight men’s, lesbophobic scare tactics painting lesbians as predatory, etc. If you can’t see how a space like that is inherently violent, I can’t help you.
The characterization of trans women as ‘entitled,’ of trying to force our way in, of our existence threatening to ‘destroy’ the event, of us ‘trying to take something away’ all paints trans women as fundamentally predatory. This is an act of violence. Painting marginalized, powerless groups as predatory not only masks the far higher rates of violence against us, but actively encourages it, painting us as unrapeable (~because we’re the violent ones, after all~).
how would you feel about a “white women only” space at michfest?
Thank you for writing this, Riese. Where I live, there’s no queer community and definitely no trans community so it’s nice to feel like I belong somewhere even if it’s just online.
whatevs. it’s much simpler for me to fall in terms of religion, right down to a full-fledged apostasy, than rip out my feeelings towards a girlfriend.
This is a really well-written article and it makes some great points. However… I really feel that the situation is not so black and white. It’s full of grays.
I am a cis woman who sees trans women as my sisters, and I definitely consider them to be women, and I have many of them in my life. But I do think there’s something valuable about getting together for one week out of the year with other cis lesbian feminist women. I wouldn’t have a problem with trans women getting together, and I don’t have a problem with cis women getting together. When we get together in an intentional community for one week out of the year, in the middle of the woods, I think it’s a valuable experience.
I was socialized as a female in a patriarchal culture and I come to the land to spend some time with other people who have had the same experience. I think that’s valuable. Yes, trans women are very, very oppressed– even more oppressed than cis women in many respects– I’m not denying that. I’m just saying that I believe in the right of any oppressed group to create healing spaces that are self-defined.
If Michfest actually was the bastion on transphobia that people think it is, I wouldn’t attend. But it’s not. So I do. And I still consider myself a trans ally.
I also believe that the coercion, blacklisting, and rage directed at Michfest organizers, performers, and attendees is a product of patriarchy. It’s colonization. It’s witch hunting. Telling a group of women that they’re doing something horribly wrong and that they need to be corrected, shamed, or silenced is the oldest trick in the book.
Please explain your last paragraph, Feminista. I don’t understand your reasoning and conclusion. Thanks.
Sure, no problem.
I believe it’s patriarchy that has told people over and over throughout history that they are not allowed to create a space that is self-defined. Patriarchy came to matrilineal societies and put the power in the hands of men. Patriarchy came to indigenous people and tried to wipe them out and/or whitewash their cultures. Patriarchy has policed sexuality in various ways throughout history. Patriarchy burned women at the stake for centuries. Women like you and me.
Michfest is a place with its own unusual, self-defined culture, and because we have all been influenced by patriarchy, people feel a need to insist that it change or disappear.
I don’t understand how excluding trans women is counter to the patriarchy, or how a minority at the nonprivileged end of their privilege axis asking for inclusion with the rest of the axis is furthering the goals of the patriarchy. Perhaps you might care to explain?
“Women like you and me.”
But not me? Do you believe that trans women just suddenly emerged from the very earth in the last half-century? We have existed as long as human beings have had a concept of gender. There are photos of us going back as far as there have been cameras, and personal accounts of people experiencing dysphoria as old as a thousand years.
How, exactly, are we whose very existence has been repressed from public awareness for ages, somehow perpetrators of the patriarchy?
Starling, when I said “women like you and me,” I meant all women who challenge the norms, including you. I absolutely agree with you that trans women have always been a part of humanity. And I do not think that trans women are perpetrators of the patriarchy.
What I was trying to say is that growing up in a patriarchal society has taught us to try to smash institutions like Michfest, or to try to coerce them into changing (even if they clearly don’t want to), or to tell them that they’re doing things all wrong.
As opposed to what, allowing bigoted practices to stand unchecked and unquestioned, keeping our opinions to ourselves?
You can mince words all day and night but at the end of the road, I am a woman and I am a feminist and I am a lesbian and I have never hurt a living soul and if I am still unwelcome at Michfest in light of all of those things, and so are all other women like me, then there is something deeply, deeply wrong with Michfest.
Your comparison to violent colonization is interesting, because the gender system used by trans women exclusionary radical feminists (such as Lisa Vogel and various other “intention supporters”) to justify the exclusion of trans women from MichFest is itself a white colonial construct, and that many of those civilizations you mention had place in their cultures for women who in modern western society would have been coercively assigned male at birth.
Is it really appropriate to refer to cultures that would have accepted trans women as women in order to justify excluding trans women from women’s spaces?
Look up Maria Lugones’ Heterosexualism and the Colonial / Modern Gender System.
You don’t get to decide if you’re an ally or not.
I am not comfortable calling any cis women who still support Mich trans allies, regardless of what you consider yourself. I’m sorry that I can’t be articulate enough right now to explain to you, again, why what you’re saying is problematic, and I hope someone else will step in (or that you’ll read the article again). But maybe when there are this many trans women telling you that going to Mich is bad allyship, you should think again about calling yourself an ally.
I agree. I do not get to decide if I’m a trans ally or not. I know the situation is extremely problematic and that many people would see me as a hypocrite.
To draw the subtlest shade of distinction, I think she *can* decide if she’s an ally or not, but as you say, that relies on listening to the issues raised by those she is allied with, and making sure she’s on the same side. Otherwise she’s just “a well wisher who sometimes agrees with us.”
I have had OCD since I was about 10. It is a disorder. It is different from PTSD, but they are both disorders of an individual.. Both have “triggers” that create uncomfortable emotional reactions that vary ftom individual to individual. Others may sympathize, and tty to help us. There are meds that can help, balance the neurochemicals in our brains that cause us to react to the triggers.
But as I have had to realize in my life, others in my life are not responsible to cure me. And it is my job to not blame or burden others for what I suffer, and thus “spread” the pain to others. We who have disorders have to “step up” and own our individual responsibility for dealing with it. It is the only way to be free of these disorders.
I would like to take personal disorders out of this discussion about excluding transwomen from Michfest, please.
And may I also state that I have a penis and would be terribly embarassed to share a communal shower with a bunch of any people I don’t know! I’ll just get a bucket of water and some soap and go sponge bath behind a tree, thank you very much! :)
@Sarah, Is this in reference to the discussion on another comment? I’m not sure how it fits into this specific context. With that said, yes, I think it’s a distraction and detrimental to the issues involved (both trans-related and disability-related) to continue that other particular discussion.
@sh45 (Sarah), ok, no, PTSD and OCD are not the same, don’t tell me about PTSD if you don’t have it. PTSD is a direct result of trauma, which is why it’s called POST-TRAUMATIC Stress Disorder. Just don’t try to explain it away if you don’t have a direct personal experience with it.
I think we can talk about how people attempting to take down the Michfest exclusion make people with PTSD feel like shit and like their triggers aren’t real. I don’t want to get into it about how anyone could be triggered by anything, I’m talking about how in this particular situation, in these comments and such, the way women being triggered is being spoken about is gross and wrong and damaging.
We can talk about some women being triggered should not be the defining reason why trans women are excluded, and we can talk about how not every trans woman is pre-op. We just need to be very careful the language we use. That’s it. Easy as pie.
I have PTSD. Being triggered is NOT the same as being “squicked out.” You know what squicks me out? Roaches. You know what gives me nightmares so bad my person has to wake me up because I’m screaming? A direct trigger (indirect triggers are always very random, and can sort of send me spiraling into a shitty mood, but direct triggers, things that look exactly like what was used in the traumas, that would be what I would call a direct trigger)
Intended as a reply to Woya:
The Lesbian Sex Mafia has documents online with feedback regarding ending their exclusion of trans women and to not require trans women keep their genitals covered if they haven’t had bottom surgery. There is one part by a cisgender woman who has PTSD talking about how she does not wish her mental health being used to attack and harm trans women. I don’t know if that particular writing is more what you want to see, but it’s probably worth checking out.
I think part of the issue for me is the concept of “punching up vs punching down”. There are lots of axes of privilege in our society, such as white/of color, rich/poor, able-bodied/disabled. I believe, strongly, that cisgender/transgender is another axis, and that cisgender is at the privileged end of that axis. For that reason, I wouldn’t view trans people’s exclusion the same way I view white people’s exclusion from an event for people of color, but rather the way I would view people of color’s exclusion from a gathering “for white people”. It’s important to look at the context of privilege in this issue.
I totally hear you… but I see it differently. I think that when a more privileged group gets together to talk about their identities and experiences, it does have the potential to be productive. White people getting together to have a frank conversation about whiteness, including a thorough analysis of their white privilege, could be useful if done right. It could make them less racist, not more racist, if done right.
And incidentally, at Michfest, I have gotten into the most meaningful conversations about gender, gender identity, cisgender privilege, etc., in my entire life. It’s not a place where you go to bask in transphobia and ignore your privilege– far from it. We talk about these issues endlessly.
I understand, and yes, we as white people do need to have a conversation about how systemic racism is still a huge problem. That said, I don’t think I would trust any organization that specifically excludes (or nicely asks) people of color not to come to their party. I would inherently distrust the motives and the goodwill of any effort by white people to address racism that is itself exclusionary of people of other races. What purpose does excluding trans people serve, in the context of MichFest?
You mean to tell me that the most interesting and enlightening conversations you’ve ever had about gender and gender identity didn’t involve people whose gender identity diverged from that which they were assigned?
You need to try harder, I think.
Starling, I know it sounds crazy, but that has honestly been my experience. I’ve had many really significant conversations about gender with trans and gender-nonconforming people… but I’ve had the MOST significant ones at Michfest.
I cannot conceive of that being possible unless you do not value the opinions of transgender people equally. It implies that we are not capable of understanding our own lives and struggles. It is flagrantly offensive.
Starling to be fair I am sure a few of those people in the conversation were trans men. Which begs the question I wonder how many cis males showed up pretending to be trans male.
Starling and Al, both of your assumptions are incorrect.
“I also believe that the coercion, blacklisting, and rage directed at Michfest organizers, performers, and attendees is a product of patriarchy. It’s colonization. It’s witch hunting. Telling a group of women that they’re doing something horribly wrong and that they need to be corrected, shamed, or silenced is the oldest trick in the book.”
Well I believe that the Michfest “Intention” is a product of patriarchy as well as the claims that are constantly trotted out to defend it, especially those that claim trans women are just sexual predators in disguise.
Also you seem to be implying that a boycott is, by definition, a witch hunt? That’s ridiculous. And I find your ‘colonization’ claim to be ironic considering that in her May 9, 2014 statement, white, well-off American Lisa Vogel actually pointed to the Boko Haram kidnappings in Nigeria as evidence of the supposed ‘universal experience’ of girlhood.
“If Michfest actually was the bastion on transphobia that people think it is, I wouldn’t attend. But it’s not. So I do. And I still consider myself a trans ally.”
You’re not my ally.
I hear what you’re saying. But I’m speaking on my own behalf… I’m not speaking for anyone else, or trying to defend anyone else. I’m not going to hold myself responsible for all of the statements of the thousands of women who have attended Michfest over the past 39 years (some of whom are indeed totally transphobic), just as I would not hold you accountable for all of the statements made by any of the thousands of women who have been opposed to Michfest over the past 39 years (some of whom have been totally out of line and violent.)
Also, to clarify, I don’t think the boycott is a witchhunt. The boycott is just a boycott, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with boycotting something. What I was referring to is the extreme harassment that many performers and organizers have experienced for years, which have included death threats.
Personal friends of mine have been harassed at length, been doxed (had their personal information posted online, which enables more harassment as well as possibly physical violence) for attending MWMF. I would call this extreme harassment. I’ve personally received death threats from trans women exclusionary radfems, and that was after years of online harassment from the same people.
I don’t think you will find many pro-inclusion people supporting harassment or death threats, and you can find online evidence of the open and public harassment and threats that have been directed at trans women and allies.
People have the right to boycott whatever they want really. Whether it be LGBT people boycotting homophobic businesses or religious people boycotting businesses they feel are anti-religion or pro-gay rights. If MichFest doesn’t want to change their policies they really don’t have to. That said, attendees and performers also have the right to say “You know. I can’t in good faith continue to support your policies of which I feel are transphobic.” If Michfest eventually ends up shutting down because of that well that it is just a consequence for having the anti-trans policy that they do. They don’t HAVE to change that policy just to appease trans people but at the same time they can’t claim it’s unfair that they lose business/support because of it.
Context: I was assigned female at birth. I was raised by my parents with the intention of creating a little girl. And for most of my development, it seemed to have worked pretty well. (I am also not a trans man.)
And with this context, I ask you: what is so special about being a cis woman?
I enjoy, like many, to exchange stories about growing up seen as a girl and tips about bodily worries and joys with friends who have similar experiences and anatomies, but that’s pretty much the extent of where that bond will take you.
Surely the experience of being raised or living as a cis woman does not warrant in itself a special cis-girl camp!
I respectfully disagree. I think the experience of growing up as a cisgender female is unique and significant. Especially in a patriarchal society. You don’t have to agree or relate, but that’s how I feel.
So is growing up white. How does that justify excluding trans women?
TheDrDonna, you just lost me.
I’m just not seeing how a specific concept of one’s upbringing being unique and significant is justification, on its own, for this kind of policy. I’m white, and that definitely had a profound impact on my childhood, but I would never try to argue that due to my whiteness I should be able to have organized spaces that don’t include people of color.
I don’t wish to deny that growing up being cisgender and perceived as female in society has caused women (such as yourself, I am assuming) to have some different experiences from me. What I am wondering is how that distinction, in and of itself, justifies the exclusion of trans folk (again, people who are at the non-privileged end of the trans/cis spectrum) from an event that is, at least nominally, for women.
I think the experiance of cis girlhood is unique and significant as well, but so is the experience of trans girlhood. I understand wanting to discuss what it was like to grow up raised as a girl, but not why trans women sharing their own childhood experiences would have a negative impact on that discussion. There are many experiences shared by a large number of women, regardless of sex assigned at birth – being forced to abide by strict gender roles for example.
I am cis and I see no value in keeping trans women out of discussions about girlhood. It’s one thing if some cis women at the festival want to have a discussion about things like periods or childbith and limit it to people who can experience those things. However, such topics are far from the only aspects of women’s lives worth discussing. While each group has its unique attributes, there are plenty of shared experiences to unite us all as women.
@TheDrDonna: don’t. Racism is not a metaphor to be used to talk about our own white experiences.
@Impish: I reject that line of reasoning. Using metaphors is one of the best ways to describe a non-familiar situation to someone, and by the logic you’re using I can only use metaphors involving human experiences I have personally had, regardless of how respectful I am or how apropos the similarity may be. I disagree that I am appropriating anyone else’s experience by using metaphor, and I think that if the subject matter is treated in a respectful and conscientious way then we shouldn’t declare such things verboten.
@TheDrDonna Stow the straw arguments. Using someone else’s oppression, that we benefit from, as a metaphor for our own purposes is the problem. We as whites just declaring that we’re being respectful and not racist is a colossal farce.
This is the constant banded party line of the Michfest attendee and it is so blithely indifferent to the actual lived experiences of trans girls that I shake with anger in the face of it.
You have absolutely no idea what my childhood was like. You content yourself with the notion that I had some kind of boyhood. That I just went about like any other cis hetero teenage boy until suddenly I decided I’d just prefer to be a woman. Well let me explain to you: I had no boyhood. I had no girlhood. I had a hollowness in my stomach that started at puberty and would not go away. Which grew and grew until it consumed my entire person, and what appeared to be me, that teenage boy, was a thin sheet wrapped around a sucking void.
Because I had been told through every medium imaginable, through my parents presumptions and the voices on the television and the dichotomies echoed in the games and jokes of my peers that there was no matter of choice in it. That I was supposed to be this thing, a boy, and I had failed at it, and so I was nothing. The only real thing about me in all those years was a terrified little girl locked away in a dark hole, not permitted to grow or see the light of day, while I built up automatic reactions to cope, just barely, with the expectations placed upon me.
From the ages of 13 to 21, I had no experience worth mentioning. Not because I had a boyhood, but because I was denied a girlhood that I silently pined for, until that pain nearly killed me.
And then you hang this over me like an albatross around my neck. My fear and terror at a world that I thought for sure would kill me if I showed those desires and longings that possessed me. You make the fact that I was not brave for your gaze, that I did not demonstrate my feelings early enough, means that I do not have your permission to have those experiences now. That I will continue to be denied womanhood as I was denied girlhood. I will be denied the markers of a shared, healing, communal experience with other women, and you will back-justify that upon the terror that was inflicted on me as a little girl.
I am so, so tired of it.
@Impish: You do realize that however contemptible you consider my viewpoint, it’s obviously one I believe, so hand waving it away as a “straw argument”, instead of addressing it, just serves to polarize me against your opinion?
Given that there’s already something of a trope that trans women are bellicose and would rather browbeat our “opponents” into accepting our point of view, I lack both the desire and the intention to further interact with you.
Starling, I in no way think that you had a boyhood. I in no way believe I can understand your experience. I in no way think you had an insignificant experience as a child.
I was twelve when I first saw the phrase “womyn born womyn” on a flyer for a vegan picnic. It was about a year later that I first heard someone was forcibly removed from michfest.
In the year between I was crippled by a man, a boxer who beat me for a minute in between classes in junior-high.
What is funny, is that though I still fear men…I fear being ostracized by other women much more. I still remember hearing my mother’s friends talking about that woman who was kicked out of michfest. The words they used, I can’t repeat them, even twenty years later. These were the women whose children I babysat most nights of the week. These women were my extended family. That night I had two of their children sitting on my lap (they were fortunately asleep). I can still feel my heart beating so hard I was certain it would wake the kids.
I had been jealous of one of their daughters who had gone that year. She had told me everything and it had sounded so wonderful: for years I hated myself for that innocent jealousy. Children believe adults. If children are told they are monsters, they believe it.
But anyways, the girls I babysat for grew up and they, my mom, my aunt, my roommates in college, my sister-in-law and mother-in-law, they all tell me I am real. They all make it clear that anyone who says I am not welcome anywhere they can go themselves has to deal with them. It never comes up, not ever, they never have to vouch for me or whatever, but sometimes I wonder if that is only because I avoid the kind of spaces I grew up in (feminist, far left, lesbian, etc).
You cannot be a trans ally if you support an organization that tells children they are monsters, that no matter how young they are, or good they try to be…they will never ever be real.
(I seemed to have failed at responding, this was a reply to Feminista’s post regarding being a trans ally while attending Michfest)
Apparently I don’t know what I’m doing when trying to format a comment on this site. I don’t know how to edit it, so sorry about that. :)
You don’t know a damn thing about our socialization.
Would you support straight-women-only organizations? Something tells me you would recognize how horrible that would be.
Declaring that you need space away from us just as much as vice-versa is really telling. There is overwhelming violence against trans women, including from cis women. You have immense institutional power over us.
“I also believe that the coercion, blacklisting, and rage directed at Michfest organizers, performers, and attendees is a product of patriarchy. It’s colonization. It’s witch hunting. Telling a group of women that they’re doing something horribly wrong and that they need to be corrected, shamed, or silenced is the oldest trick in the book.”
~Hey I totally see trans women as women but I will immediately try to call them violent men if they ever speak out about transmisogyny or show anger against people who dehumanize and attack them, also I think I’ll compare their existence in women’s spaces to a system of brutal invasion and genocide~
Not to mention MichFest’s own history of witch hunts against trans women on the land. No, our keeping track of transmisogynists that we can’t trust is totally the ‘witch hunt.’
The irony of that last sentence is amazing, too. Way to describe exactly what you’ve been doing this entire post.
That’s really not how I feel at all. I believe trans women are women. I believe they are my sisters. And, simultaneously, I believe in the right of any oppressed group to create a healing space that is self-defined.
I’m curious, would you be ok with the concept of a LGBT support group that excluded people who make less than a certain amount per year? The point I’m driving at is that, speaking intersectionally, it’s possible for a group that’s oppressed along one axis to still organize and create spaces in a way that oppresses people along another axis.
TheDrDonna, I’m sorry to say this, but I really don’t think these metaphors of your are working.
Cis women are not oppressed BY trans women. I’ll ask you again, do you think straight women need ‘healing’ spaces away from us, for straights only?
Claims of allyship mean nothing when you’ll turn around and demonize us and dehumanize us.
The second half of my comment contained no metaphor whatsoever, Feminista. You could try responding to that, but I have noticed that across this whole comment section you haven’t really responded to that point. So, the big question: do you believe that trans people, as a class, are disadvantaged compared to cis people?
Instead of metaphors, we can simply look at the history of MichFest that Reise provides. Every other group that has been at some point excluded has been actively included over time, which is one of the things that could be so inspiring about the festival. The fact that trans women are the only women who have not been included makes the different, biased, oppressive treatment clear. We don’t have to hypothesize “what ifs” about race and the festival; there was a time when the festival did not seem to be inclusive of women who weren’t white, but that was actively challenged and then changed.
Impish and TheDrDonna, this is what I wrote in my first comment:
“I was socialized as a female in a patriarchal culture and I come to the land to spend some time with other people who have had the same experience. I think that’s valuable. Yes, trans women are very, very oppressed– even more oppressed than cis women in many respects– I’m not denying that. I’m just saying that I believe in the right of any oppressed group to create healing spaces that are self-defined.”
That’s my response to your questions. I’m going to exit the conversation now.
What irks me most is this snippet from their website “It’s possible to feel a disquieting sense of separation or invisibility if you are heterosexual and have never been in a community where the dominant sexual preference is different than your own.”
Here is advice designed to ease a privileged group into coping with exposure to people who are different and who they may themselves have stigmatized. They could just as easily offer a disclaimer for cis people unaccustomed to dealing with trans people. Here, Michfest, I did it for you: “It’s possible to feel a disquieting sense of separation or unease if you are cisgendered and have never been in a community where you may encounter trans women. We can only overcome our fear of the unknown by exposing ourselves to it.”
And another thing that pisses me off: you would think that lesbians/bi women, many of whom are keenly aware of what it’s like to be falsely assumed to be sexual predators, would know better than turn around and do the same thing to trans women. There are many parallels that ought to be obvious but when it comes to that viscerally awful experience of being asked to leave the public washroom/YWCA shower/Regina George’s pool party etc, it baffles me how cis lesbians manage to fail to make this connection.
I appreciate all of the time and research that went into this article. Having personally just come back from Festival it was really jarring to read this. Trans women face a ridiculous amount of challenges and oppression that most other people never come close to facing. There’s no doubt about this and as a trans person and MichFest supporter, I want things to get better.
But why does MichFest have to be everything for everyone? As queers we are constantly seeking our own spaces and working to get our voices heard. So why are we seeking to tear down something that has done so much good because it fails to be good at everything? I am not saying that MichFest should stay as it is but why aren’t other alternatives being sought?! All of the years of knowledge that the women of MichFest have obtained could be used to help build another festival, one for ALL WOMEN.
I am really sad and angry that instead of attacking the institutions that actively degrade and oppress all women we have found it acceptable to rally ourselves against an independent festival that was born from the hope that there could be one safe space for a small population of women, if only for a few days.
Riese talked about performers not wanting to participate at MichFest or who are boycotted if they do. MichFesters aren’t actively walking around discussing how they can tear down trans women and help wipe them out. What good does it do to boycott a feminist lesbian performer who seeks to play some part in a festival that creates a safe space for women? Who, Queers, is that helping?
I don’t know the answer. But what I do know is that actively intending or hoping that MichFest disintegrates is not progressive. Nor does it help to sit on the wayside and watch it crumble.
What is it about MichFest that so sorely gets under our skin? I think its just an easier target. Yes, there are things wrong with MichFest. But there are a lot of women who NEED MichFest to survive. They need that 7 days a year in their lives where they can walk with their heads held high and know that they have a voice and that their health and happiness matter. If MichFest falls then please, lets have something else that we can go to. Let’s build something and this time it doesn’t have to be from scratch.
Michfest is a self-proclaimed women’s festival. The justifications used to exclude trans women have varied through the years from the disingenuous claim of a shared experience of ‘universal girlhood’ for cis women to persistent, hateful claims that trans women are, as a whole, nothing more than rapists who want to enter the festival in order to destroy women’s organizing from within.
If you do not understand how it is harmful for a public women’s festival to have an exclusion policy based in part on the idea that trans women are supposedly sexual predators in disguise then you honestly have no place in this conversation.
As for the claim that no one is putting forward alternatives, this again seems disingenuous since there are about a zillion alternatives discussed in the article above and in this comments section alone. Have Michfest, but include trans women- there’s an alternative right there.
Restating the fact that the alternative for MichFest is to allow trans women or cease to exist is not an alternative it’s an ultimatum. I do understand that a policy based on preconceived ideas of trans women as sexual predators would degrade trans women. That, however, is not the ideology of MichFest.
MichFest attendees come from all over the world so yes some of then are racist, ableists, and trans phobics. It runs the spectrum. But it is not the majority. Those traumatic experiences that some trans women faced when on the Land horrify me. Those women needed a place to be safe and they received the opposite. MichFest is failing to reach the needs of all women and it is hurting the community.
My perspective is that we, the community, start building other safe, wholly inclusive, festivals now instead of taking the time to tear one down and then years from now wonder why there are less safe spaces available for any women.
Again, did you read the article? There was a detailed discussion there about other already existing festivals, including a specific focus on Autostraddle’s own A-Camp.
“If you do not understand how it is harmful for a public women’s festival to have an exclusion policy based in part on the idea that trans women are supposedly sexual predators in disguise then you honestly have no place in this conversation.”
Savannah, I think everyone’s opinion and everyone’s experience matters if we’re going to have a productive discussion/debate. I don’t think it’s fair to tell anyone that they have no place in this conversation. In particular, I don’t think it’s fair to say that the only people who can discuss Michfest are people who have never been there! I mean, come on. That wouldn’t make sense.
Also, I think you’re making a lot of assumptions and sweeping statements. Most people at Michfest do not see trans women as sexual predators, rapists, and destroyers.
Sorry, that’s snarky and unhelpful, I know. But seriously: it is clear that trans women are not intended to be welcome on the land. If I went, it doesn’t matter how many nice people I meet who understand that I am there as a woman to share an experience of women’s space – there is a policy in place which says that I shouldn’t be there, and there’s a history of trans women like me being harassed and/or kicked out. If you don’t see the problem with that, and don’t see how your dollars are supporting exclusion of women from what is ostensibly women’s space, and how that means you’re doing pretty shitty as an ally, then I’m not really sure what conversation you’re trying to have?
Give it up. No amount of soft, coddling apologism is going to convince us to accept the status quo.
Michfest isn’t financially flagging because of trans women, it’s flagging because it’s values are moldering and decrepit and cis women no longer want to be associated with it. They can either get with the times and accept all women or they will simply cease to have a festival, and few will morn it’s passing.
In fact, they’ll be lucky if a policy change will get any trans women in attendance. I know I wouldn’t want to go, not knowing that countless transmisogynists who have called that festival home for the last 20 years will still be there and still be eager to fuck with me.
Ummm…Michfest is actually a private event…… Somehow, this is getting lost in the conversation. Doesn’t the party host get to choose the invitees?
The reason it’s important to fight against policies like this is that if we (whether that “we” is women or LGBTQ people) refuse to stand up for our most vulnerable sisters, brothers, and siblings we have failed as a community. As we all fight for equality we must be sure not to leave anyone behind, even when it makes it easier for the rest of us.
I’ve never attended MichFest, but I understand that it has been of great value to many. If it dies out, I’ll be sad for what has been lost. However, all the festival organizers need to do to end the boycott is to recognize trans women’s womanhood by allowing them to attend (something the majority of attendees are in favor of). If they care more about excluding a small group of oppressed women than about preserving MichFest for future generations, that is not the fault of those fighting for inclusivity.
Many people ARE working to ensure the existence of safe spaces open to all women. Events like A-Camp are a great example of this. However, that doesn’t mean we should give up on trying to get important, influencial, and established events like MichFest to change their discriminiatory policies.
I am not saying that we should stop pushing MichFest to change it’s policies, but why not show them up by taking that idea and making it better. Then let it absolve because people see value in the greater good. A Camp sounds amazing, let’s have more of them.
Because MichFest sets an example that has been used to justify the exclusion of trans women from women’s health resources, rape shelters, domestic violence shelters, health care, and more. It’s as much symbolic as it is reality.
I am really sad and angry that instead of attacking the institutions that actively degrade and oppress all women we have found it acceptable to rally ourselves against an independent festival that was born from the hope that there could be one safe space for a small population of women, if only for a few days.
is really disingenuous. Many cisgender feminists actively attack, harass, degrade, and oppress trans women instead of “attacking the institutions that actively degrade and oppress all women.”
This is also not what you’re painting it as. It is a situation in which cisgender women have asserted their power and privilege as cisgender women to exclude trans women. This is the literal definition of attacking an institution that actively degrades and oppresses trans women. True solidarity is not focusing only on the things that impact all women. True solidarity also focuses on the things that impact any women. All women are not persecuted (and sometimes executed) by police the way black women are. All women are not denied access to the economic and legal benefits of marriage the way lesbians have been (and in many states still are). All women are not told their childhood isn’t good enough to let them in the front door the way trans women are. Focusing only on the institutions and policies that impact all women is an extremely privileged form of activism that basically ignores race, disability, economic class, transness, fatness, etc.
Unless that’s not what you meant, but if it’s not, you’re still asking trans women to ignore stuff that impacts us so we can focus on things that impact you.
@Lisa Harney, very well articulated. Thank you for saying that to me.
Historically, MichFest has dealt with multiple controversies that mirrored the tumultuous lesbian and feminist movements. The current fight to respect and recognize trans individuals is, and has long been, the fight. I suppose I just want the knowledge and history of MichFest to be saved and passed on so that future persons can build upon them. Also, I dislike the idea of a safe haven for women being destroyed.
I agree that there are cisgender feminists out there actively harassing and attacking trans women. I don’t agree that MichFest is this institutionalized force that is doing this deed.
It is important for me to view the larger picture and MichFest’s impact on the community at large. I am interested in what we can learn from MichFest and how we can take what good there is from it and transfer that good. Is there a single festival or organization that is radically inclusive and doesn’t have flaws? I’m not saying that to minimize the damage of MichFest’s policies, I am sincerely asking.
I do not want to ignore the things that impact trans women or any other group I just want to participate in the dialogue.
“Also, I dislike the idea of a safe haven for women being destroyed.”
But it isn’t a safe haven for women because it explicitly bans a portion of women. You can’t say “Oh well, 90% are here so it’s close enough.” It’s only a safe haven if EVERY and ANY woman is welcome.
That, and it’s clear that any destruction occurring to Michfest is self-inflicted, so you’re lobbing your mewling of preservation at the wrong target.
AJ, I could not agree more!!
@Savannah, yes I have read the article several times and I was not blown away by the 3 festivals that pertain to women- Aqua Girls, Girls in Wonderland, and A Camp.
So what is your point? You don’t support or advocate for MichFest to become inclusive and you don’t think the inclusive options that exist are that interesting/significant? I hope you have a big budget and a lot of energy for the inclusive alternative to MichFest that you intend to create.
I think you’re setting up a false dichotomy in which the two options are 1.) eliminate MichFest and 2.) create something entirely new. But I don’t see calls for MichFest to be eliminated, I see calls for it to become inclusive of all women. Why do you not consider this to be a viable option?
Actually @Nika Starr I never stated that I was against advocating for change at MichFest. I was curious as to why when there are members of congress and organizations that are actively passing laws to constrain and harm all women we are spending large amounts of energy boycotting MichFest.
The actions of these anti-women groups in no way lessen the hurtful history and actions of MichFest. I want to participate in the dialogue and understand more about why MichFest is a priority.
The three women-oriented fests that were mentioned in the article do not come close to MichFest’s premise. None of them are built from the ground up each year solely by women.
Have you ever heard of crowdfunding?
I hope that MichFest changes but no, I don’t think the change will come soon enough and that it will fall apart.
@AJ I don’t know aught about the others but how is A-Camp not “built from the ground up each year solely by women”?
@Xenia V The land where MichFest takes place is private property (owned by Lisa Vogel) and only used once a year. Women show up in July to start building the stages, setting up the showers, food tents, speakers, etc. The only men are those who come at nighttime to clean and restock the porter potties. Once you turn into the field to park and unload your car you will only be surrounded by women until the end of the festival unless you leave the grounds for whatever reason.
Literally everything is built from the ground by women. There are also work shifts for the festival attendees so they can take part in running the festival. I am not sure if the food is sourced from woman owned companies but I do know that there is no corporate sponsorship.
A-Camp takes place at a resort I believe. I don’t know if their policy is to only have queer identified people working and/or interacting with the A-campers once the session begins.
I probably am unaware of other events that go so far to create a space that is, for the most part, solely built and lived in by women, but that’s what I think is most unique about MichFest.
@AJ I’ve never been to A-Camp myself but I don’t think it’s held at a resort. I believe it is held at some type of campsite (hence the name).
re A-Camp: it’s on a campsite, and the two times I was there I only saw one (presumably) cis guy on staff once – he worked with the organisation that owned a campsite and gave us a safety briefing (and I had to explain to him why we were cracking up over the bear warning). That’s it.
If Autostraddle had any money to buy and maintain their own land they’d be on it super quick – there was talk about an AS commune!
Based on what was said in the article, specially the part about Tobi said she met half a dozen trans men at the festival. It has me wondering has any cis male tried to the enter the festival under guise of saying they are trans male? I ask, because they are worried about trans women being predatory and having male energy, but what is really stopping a cis male from attempting this? Like how do they know if the male person at the festival is trans or not?
It creeps me out that a community of queer women/feminists can harbour such gross transphobic and down right hateful, oppressive sentiments.
I don’t understand where this is coming from. Surely penises aren’t that scary? Does anyone have any ideas about what this fear is really based on?
Womyn born Womyn… Brrrr it gives me shivers it’s so gross.
Perhaps that could be an interesting future AS topic, transphobia within the queer community. Why, and where does it come from.
In regards to some of the sentiments that seem to be coming through in the comments, of the notion that the festival should be preserved because it has held, and still holds some kind of value to certain people whose lives it is a part of, my reaction is… Nah! Shits fucked! This kind of rottenness can not be tolerated. Until they change their policies this festival is poisoned. I believe it’s so important that we demand what is righteous, and ruthlessly reject what is oppressive.
reply to Woya….. I am sorry you were upset about my comment about PTSD and OCD. My comment did not talk about PTSD except to say that it is a disorder and a personal issue for an individual …. just like OCD is.
Both disorders have triggers that cause personal fear and anxiety for the individuals.
I am not making light of either disorder at all.
I suggested only that individual disorders … yours or mine should not be a basis of excluding a whole group of people who have nothing to do with the cause of our disorders. I would suggest making changes in facilities for those individuals suffering from PTSD as a gesture of compassion for them.
This all reminds me of a constant point of contention that was frequently brought up during my riot grrrl days — a lot of the punk rock boys would get really insulted by the movement and point out that they, too, were marginalized and disenfranchised people, and we therefore shouldn’t be challenging their sexism when their were bigger monsters out there (The Man! Society!).
This always baffled me.
How in the world could we expect to combat powerful, privileged, mainstream misogyny if we couldn’t even combat a smaller version of it in our own community, amid people who were allegedly progressive and open-minded and considered themselves our allies??
Inclusion just seems like such an obvious no-brainer to me.
Oh, the typos. They hurt to see. Sorry!
Let me be clear that my tone here is peaceful because I know it’s easy for words to be interpreted as hostile in tense discussions like this one. I have never known anyone, cis or not, who has been sexually assaulted by a trans woman, which is not to say that this never occurs, because I’m sure it does. On the other hand I have been sexually assaulted by a cis woman, and I can think of a few other women I know who have confided in me about similar experiences. It is dangerous to assume that adults’ ability to violate others is entirely dependent on what gender they were assigned at birth. Avoiding the presence of people who were assigned male at birth is not a solution for rape culture, and cis lesbians are absolutely capable of disrespecting consent/violating others on the assumption that as women they’re automatically incapable of rape. The woman who assaulted me flat out told me that it wasn’t assault because she was a woman. She is welcome at MichFest while trans women I know who respect other people’s boundaries aren’t. That does not compute. Also, we can’t talk about gendered experiences of sexual assault without acknowledging that trans women DO experience it, at an alarmingly high rate. Trans women are far more likely to be survivors than perpetrators.
I’m guessing that the original comment got removed because it violated the comment policy? Now I appear to be talking to myself when I was actually replying to it.
As someone who was also assaulted by a woman (a straight woman no less)I take your point entirely. However, I work on statistics. I know 1 in 4 females will be assaulted by males. I know that all the trans women I know might have been, in a previous era, described more accurately as crossdressers – ie they have no desire to medically transition and for the most part, live their daily lives as men and are known within the community as misogynists who we have to be so careful around. They are my primary concerns – but in our current identity obsessed culture, there’s no way seemingly to separate them out from the entirely reasonable trans women I’ve encountered who are equally as afraid as I am, half the time of the same people. When I see so many trans activists respond to the concerns of cis women and survivors with derision and threats, I believe my worries are not without merit.
There was no way to separate the cis, femme lesbian who assaulted me from the 3,000 women who attended.
Your argument is the most offensive and flammable of straw men.
Evidently, Vogel and company aren’t concerned with your traumatic experience. Every time this scenario has been brought up (woman on woman sexual assault as in: http://www.pandys.org/articles/lesbiandomesticviolence.html) there is no indication that any woman has ever been turned away from MichFest for a history of prior assault, rape, abuse or unwanted sexual advances towards another woman. Moreover, there are certainly women who attend MichFest very specifically to drink and get sexual with other women in attendance, sometimes in a quite aggressive way (I’ve heard attendees say as much). No, MichFest is not all about healing girlhoods, some of it is about partying and hook-ups. Yes, they have a chem-free area for attendees who are sober/straight edge but that doesn’t mean a woman who’s experienced woman-on-woman abuse won’t get approached by someone who’s sexually aggressive or even a predator. This entire discussion seems to be conveniently missing from the safe experience at the festival.
Good thing we have a man here to tell us that trans women are ~indistinguishable from dangerous misogynist men.~ But himself? Noooo, he’s totally great and safe and in no way trying to turn women against each other and mistrust each other! Just trust him instead!
I see you’re playing a game of good t****y/bad t****y, too, where anyone who disagrees with you is derided as this absolute boogeyman caricature, rolling up every transmisogynist stereotype and scaremongering tactic (they’re really dangerous misogynist men!); whereas good t****ies who defer to your male opinions are ‘reasonable’ and hate the ~bad t****ies~ juuuust as much as you do.
Never mind that neither group actually EXISTS, no no.
“I know that all the trans women I know might have been, in previous era, described more accurately as crossdressers – ie they have no desire to medically transition and for the most part, live their daily lives as men and are known within the community as misogynists who we have to be so careful around”
So you don’t actually know any trans women at all, is what you’re saying because trans women, as women, do not live their daily lives as males. So your anecdotal evidence is completely misbased and toxic because it further conflates the idea that trans women are men in dresses.
In other words, you have no idea what you’re talking about.
Dear PoF, I always love your replies! Balanced and perceptive. Right on target.
I am a transgender female and I love women…lesbians, who know how to give female love.
Yes, I am not transitioning… have a modest penis….
The truth is that after I experienced a crush on a lesbian where I work, I had emotional feelings I had never felt before…. wonderful feelings…. enigmatic loving true feelings…. that I later realized was the realization of my female gender. How do I know it was true? I can only say it was how I felt… there is a truth one feels that cannot be explained. I suggest that many lesbians feel this “truth” when they realize they are a lesbian.
I have no male desire for any woman now. I only have female love feelings for any woman who I am attracted to.
Anyone who cannot or will not open their mind to the innocent truth of my female gender…… especially the frowny faced , self righteous judge of all people, but herself…. at my store …. who cannot dare to know the truth of the female who thought she was special….. can take a leap into the lake.
“I know that all the trans women I know might have been, in a previous era, described more accurately as crossdressers – ie they have no desire to medically transition and for the most part, live their daily lives as men and are known within the community as misogynists who we have to be so careful around.”
By that, a trans man is just a woman in men’s clothes. It does – has to – go both ways. Is that what you want to say?
Hear hear. I was raped by a cis woman, by this logic the entirety of Michfest should be automatically triggering to me.
Quote: “the concept of a “shared girlhood” universal amongst all women fails on a few fronts”
To say there is no such thing as “shared girlhood” is to deny the misogyny that every child labeled “girl” experiences.
From the moment a doctor says “It’s a girl,” that child will be treated as an object of misogyny and sexism. This is true of every culture existing today. The methods and extent may vary, but the message is the same. It is a shared experience to grow up with social norms and laws that aim to control what you do with your own uterus and vagina and knowing that you are a second class citizen and a target because of them.
Being the target of misogyny from birth is shared girlhood. Some might find more clarity in the term ‘shared AFAB-hood,” rather than girlhood.
Since this article is about MichFest, I guess I should also comment on that instead of just my tangential comment.
Because the whole fest is not specifically about discussing experiences with reproductive oppression or specifically about discussing experiencing misogyny in childhood, the fest should not seek to exclude trans women.
I am very, very confident that my girlhood is nowhere near the same as yours. Having lived in multiple countries I can attest that there isn’t even really all that much similarity between “girlhood”s anywhere. All that the talk about “shared girlhood” achieves is further alienate people like me who aren’t even trans but whose experience of gender differs SIGNIFICANTLY.
Urgh, that was @Matt.
ugh, sorry, that was supposed to be @Matt
@AJ I still don’t understand why you think it’s productive to tell people who are advocating for inclusion that they’re “doing it wrong” and not spending their time as you think would be best. What options are you offering? Start a new festival? That takes a lot of time away from writing to legislators and doing the kind of work you imply is “more” valuable than advocating for MichFest to be a better place. For myself, I clinic escort, advocate for LGBTQ prisoners, and lobby at the statehouse and lobby my elected officials when they’re home in their own districts. All of these take far more time and energy than *not going* to MichFest. I’m happy with how I distribute my time and energy. I’m sorry you feel that AS feminists aren’t doing activism the way you think they should, but that’s life. Planning and starting and funding and running a whole new inclusive festival will hardly leave *more* time for the kind of work you suggest is valuable than advocating for the festival that already exists to become better.
As a trans* guy, I get so f*&#$ing INFURIATED that transmasculine people are continually invited and celebrated in spaces like these, while transfeminine folks are routinely denied. “Men are going to dress up like women and attack us”? I’m SO sick of this transmisogyny (both violent & casual) being paraded around as feminism. It’s ugly psychological warfare and it makes me nauseous.
Routinely denied?? That is false. The only trans person who has ever been denied was Nancy Berkholder in 1992. and today LV apologized for that. Please read:
Riese, Thank you for the herstory lesson. I have gone to Mich Fest 16 times since 1986, and I would not be the person I am if not for fest. That said, I don’t believe you are qualified to speak on the issue, if you have not been there yourself. Do you take other people’s opinion over your own? I challenge you to see it, experience it for yourself, then express your opinion. So many people get the facts wrong…see LV’s post from today….https://www.facebook.com/michfest?ref=ts&fref=ts
we are not haters, and you can’t make us be. I live near a radical farie sanctuary that was founded by gay men. A few years ago they went all inclusive, with a dedication to have faggot only space on the land a few times a year for a few weeks. No one boycotted, no one called them racist. They worked together to find a solution, with harm to none. Ya’ll have jumped on this media bandwagon, get off the wagon, and see it for yourself.
You write of the radical faerie sanctuary “They worked together to find a solution, with harm to none.” It would be great if MichFest was willing to work with trans women and their allies to find a solution — after all, that’s what happened when women of color felt unwelcome at MichFest, etc. It’s clear that the festival has been willing to work to make certain changes when some women have felt unwelcome. And that’s what those who oppose the intention are asking for. I’m happy for you that you’re the type of woman who is able to attend the festival and benefit from it. Many other people would like to experience what MichFest has to offer, but they are either essentially barred from attending or uninterested in women’s festival that their friends and family cannot share with them.
Hi Nika, If you are a woman and want to go to this festival, you can. If I were trans and wanted to go to this fest, I would! Trans people belong there, trans people work there, trans people perform there. This is where the media has it wrong.
I think there needs to be a close eye on queer theory and it’s expansion because queer is taking over like fascism and now concepts of ours are blown up into comical things. I also have lesbian mother and between bisexual and lesbian and gay separate experiences. White hetero women can pop on granny glasses ad mock me when I ask not to use the slur queer. I was bi due to my valentines etc. I have been saying that the positive qualities of it could help but I LIVED THROUGH ROUGH TERRAIN BECAUSE NO, I had to fight what seemed like forever to lose it and go all out on the straight people and gay people. I may have ended up wth the pretty goth result but I was beautiful and I finally got bisexual.
And the hard liner tumblr types say I am hetero by proxy, a homophobe and spread crap about me because I am “heteronormative”. I didn’t even land on top like that. I hated it and I am glad time has changed but the same word in the scarily fascist tone and no regard for it’s history because I am counterculture. I was called a nazi for saying that bi people should date and embrace one another because I thought that it was still looked good as part of our growth. I guess I couldn’t be young and pretty without also still understanding my masculinity. Actually, the experience of being a Pretty woman and societies eyes just from my goth. I have been through enough. Heterosexual and gay people don’t get the blame now… I basically lived this since I was a “bisexual” at age 7 and this may be rough but I fought all the time and I don’t care but “queer”panders too much too. I don’t want to relive this in the new package. Heteronomrative gave me that edge. I hope ca nu se the good and ditch th rst