How Do You Solve a Problem Like MichFest?

MichfestStruggleBy Staci Robinson
This article is a repost from The Qu

I firmly believe in fighting for justice. I believe in educating and chipping away and making baby steps toward positive change. Iʼve seen change come from working within oppressive systems to topple them. But sometimes, that change just ainʼt gonna come and thereʼs only one thing left to do: Shut it down. This is what weʼve come to with the Michigan Womynʼs Music Festival.

For those who are unaware, the Michigan Womynʼs Music Festival, aka Michfest, aka Fest, is a women-only camping festival occurring every August. It was started in 1976 by Lisa Vogel and has become the largest and longest-running womenʼs festival in the country. It was founded on feminist and anti-racist principles and features speakers, workshops and performances. Sounds wonderful and transformative and affirming, right?

Hereʼs the rub, though. Michfest is a womenʼs festival but it has a policy stating that it is only for “womyn-born womyn (WBW).” AKA cisgender women. AKA trans women stay home. This policy was unstated for a long time. It came to light in 1991 when a trans woman named Nancy Burkholder was interrogated and then ejected from the festival because organizers suspected she was transgender despite Burkholder never actually disclosing that information. Following that event, public protest against the WBW policy began to mount. For many years a protest event called Camp Trans was held outside the festival in opposition to the policy. In 2006, a trans woman was allowed to purchase a ticket but the policy still remains and founder Lisa Vogel has made it clear that trans women are not welcome on “the land.” More recently, a group called Trans Women Belong Here (TWBH) began organizing inside Michfest, trying to create awareness of the policy as well as safe space for trans women who did attend.

But the policy still remains. Trans activist and comedian, Red Durkin, created a petition advocating a boycott of Michfest, asking musicians, performers and festival goers to “stand in solidarity with transgender women and our allies and to not attend or perform at the Michigan Womynʼs Music Festival until Lisa Vogel and the other organizers fully and openly welcome all self-identified women.” (“Fully and openly welcome” are key terms here. Though some trans women have gained access to Michfest, it is by no means a welcoming atmosphere. Fest goers have reported threats of violence, intimidation and hate speech directed at trans women and festival organizers turn a blind eye to this behavior.) Thus far, poet Andrea Gibson has canceled her appearances at this yearʼs Michfest and The Indigo Girls have announced that this year will be their last at the festival unless the policy is dropped.

Last week Vogel released a statement addressing the boycott, making it clear that she has no intention of altering the policy. Vogel claims that “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…I passionately believe the healing in our community will occur when we unconditionally accept trans womyn as womyn while not dismissing or disavowing the lived experience and realities of the WBW gender identity. Sadly, the extreme voices on this issue have driven much of the discussion, and the aggressive rhetoric leaves little room for building the alliances that are critical to everyoneʼs survival, growth and integrity.”

Vogel has a death grip on her cake and sheʼs planning on having a few forkfuls of it too. She pretends to support and value trans women while continuing to tell them that they are not allowed entrance to a festival celebrating women. In doing so, she is sending the message that trans women are lesser. She wants support from transphobic festival goers as well as the trans women she is excluding and their allies. Sorry, sister, you canʼt have it both ways.

Supporters of the WBW policy argue that trans women were not socialized as women and their experience of womanhood is therefore different from that of cisgender women. But arenʼt experiences amongst cisgender women different? None of us were socialized in the same way. As a cisgender femme woman from Appalachia, I was socialized differently from my butch counterpart who grew up here in Chicago. The straight cisgender pagan woman was socialized differently from the lesbian Jewish woman. If Michfest is truly about embracing womanhood then it needs to embrace ALL women. Trans women are women. Any argument that supports exclusion of trans women from “women’s space” is one based in transphobia. Period. Full stop. Supporting Michfest is supporting transphobia. While TWBH have good intentions, continuing to give money and support to this event in any way fuels hatred against trans women. This is readily seen in discussions surrounding the event online. Opposition to the WBW policy, no matter how polite, are generally met with vitriol and anger, often degrading into blatant misgendering of trans women and charges of predatory behavior. Itʼs sad and itʼs shameful.

In the words of Flavia Dzodan of Tiger Beatdown, my feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit. And part of intersectionality means recognizing transmisogyny and working to destroy it. No matter how transformational Michfest has the potential to be for some, there is no value in an event that devalues and dehumanizes part of our community.

Stand with Red Durkin. Click here to sign the petition and demand that Michfest fully and openly welcome ALL women.


Image is courtesy of Miranda Bellwether

About the guests blogger
Team_StacyStaci Robinson is a grad student at the Jane Addams College of Social Work at UIC. An Appalachian ex-pat and former veterinary technician, Staci is pursuing a second career in social work and has been involved in social justice activism since the elder Bush was in office. She has assisted with the development of the new TransLife Center at Chicago House and Social Service Agency in her first MSW internship. Staci feels profoundly honored to have collaborated with such amazing people to help create this groundbreaking new program that will empower some of the most vulnerable people in the LGBTQ community.

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28 Responses to “How Do You Solve a Problem Like MichFest?”

  1. I don’t see where there is any debate. Transwomen are women and should be allowed in. We are an evolved society, people. Wake up. These are our sisters. If anything they have faced exactly the same issues possibly on a scale of much higher duress and scrutiny. They have fought harder to be recognized for the person they were born to be and as a musician and woman I believe they should be allowed to perform and attend. Anything less is bullshit. I refuse to pick and choose who is a woman and who is not based on old, conforming ideas and beliefs.

    Posted by Bridget Lyons | May 1, 2013, 9:52 am
  2. “No matter how transformational Michfest has the potential to be for some, there is no value in an event that devalues and dehumanizes part of our community.” – beautiful! It encapsulates the problem perfectly. Thanks for a well-balanced write-up, it was an excellent read.

    Posted by Tina C. | May 1, 2013, 11:50 am
  3. I first read this article over at The Qu ( and am happy to see it at The L Stop as well. It’s an important message to get out there, Staci, so thank you!

    A year or two ago, someone suggested that I go to MichFest but I am not interested in supporting the hate of trans women so I won’t go until that issue is resolved.

    Posted by willow naeco | May 1, 2013, 11:55 am
  4. I appreciate this piece, particularly the discussion around Lisa V’s recent statement on her intentions, which were super-disappointing.

    I do take issue with statements like, ‘supporting Michfest is supporting hatred’ (ie finding any value in the space means you’re a bigot.) This kind of statement is inflammatory, and immediately shuts down any possible dialogue and opportunity for increased understanding/education. We need more dialogue between organizers, attendees and trans*womyn and allies, not less!

    I also find it troubling that the folks speaking up most vigorously against Michfest are cis-women that have never attended the festival (like Staci, admittedly). Standing in solidarity is important, so is making space for trans*womyn to speak for themselves (how many trans*womyn have you asked about this? Have you invited folks to write on it themselves?).

    I abstained from the Fest for years, and then upon hearing that the discriminatory policy was no longer in place, attended for the first time last year. I presented a workshop on sex work as a labor right’s issue, for which I experienced shaming from a few of the older attendees. However, the experience was absolutely transformative. I met many fierce trans-womyn, and heard about their experiences of the Fest, which varied widely.

    It’s now been made clear that the organizers are still holding on to this deeply flawed policy, which is heartbreaking, because womyn-positive, affirming spaces are incredibly important, and extremely limited.

    It is my deepest hope that organizers will strike down this idea of proving ‘womanhood’ because the roots of the space are deep and beautiful, and I would like to see it run for another 30 years.

    Posted by Cassandra Avenatti | May 2, 2013, 10:40 am
  5. One f***** week. Leave with it alone for us…. Go start your own tran only fest

    Posted by Stand with Lisa v | May 4, 2013, 4:58 pm
  6. Very interesting piece, Staci. Also – Cassandra, very insightful comments. The person who posted right before me falls into the “If you don’t like it here, then go back to where you came from!” category of polarization and exclusion – which makes it remarkably easy to dismiss her remark (assuming it’s a ‘her’ since she said ‘us’). I’ve never been to MichFest but have heard both my partner and close friends (all cisgender) repeatedly gush about how great and transformational it is. It appears that the different camps have different ideas about the goal of the event – is it to provide an event and safe space for women (in which case trans women are absolutely included – trans women were of course born women, their gender was simply hidden from the outside world by the their birth bodies)? Or is the goal to provide an event and safe space for “WBW” only? Some other questions to ponder: what kind of world do we want to live in? What kind of people do we want to be? Is the difference in experience (which admittedly is real, can’t be denied) really worth excluding our trans sisters?

    Posted by Rebecca Parrilla | May 7, 2013, 1:45 pm
  7. Another way to ask that is, is the difference in experience between cisgender and trans women so great or powerful that it counterbalances the pervasive and inescapable nature of our myriad similarities?

    Posted by Rebecca Parrilla | May 7, 2013, 2:03 pm
  8. Cassandra, you and I have held differing views on this subject for a while. True, I have never been to Michfest (mostly because drum circles and camping are not my jam). However, I don’t think I need to experience it to know that I have no desire to support an event that promotes such a hateful, exclusionary policy.

    And for the record, I reached out to The L Stop and asked them to address this issue. I implored them to include the voices of trans women. I got in touch with my networks and asked if anyone had written anything about Michfest that they might want to share or would be willing to write something. Several trans women responded with interest. I have no way of knowing if anyone submitted anything or not. I do hope that The L Stop addresses this issue from the perspective of trans women also.

    There have been plenty of trans women speaking out though. Red Durkin and Miranda Bellwether, both linked in my post, have written extensively on it, as has Rebecca Kling. Numerous trans bloggers have been addressing this issue for years. It’s time our community started listening.

    Posted by Staci | May 8, 2013, 9:56 am
  9. There is so much wrong posted on this page I cannot even think of where to start. And Im not really up for writing a novel or for per usual, trying to get those with privilege to see it. And honor/respect those who don’t have it.

    First, supporting or being pro one thing, does not automatically make you anti anything else. So to state that supporting fests policy is anti trans is at its core untrue. Being pro vanilla doesnt make you anti chocolate, nor does respecting Jewish separate space, make me anti christian. To even use that language of women wanting to spend time in separate space transphobic is just trying to pour gas on a fire. And to resort to it, shows how weak your stance is.

    Second, these articles always tend to be written by those who have had very little exposure to fest, and even less participation in it. Which makes your writing on it akin to trying to write about a food you have never tasted, or even prepared.

    separate space has value. Separate space should be respected and supported. It’s a long held belief in therapeutic areas that separate space is the best and often only space for certain types of healing.

    Most “survivor” therapy recovery venues only allow the targeted population.

    And the one that always gets me is this one. Fest land is privately owned. It’s not a public venue, no public monies, no sponsors etc etc. Do you not see that it is the height of privilege to attempt to dictate who must be included to an event on their privately owned land.

    Imagine people posting here and telling you who you must have over to the dinner party at your home.
    People seem to think that as fest has gotten larger or more popular, that it’s core has somehow changed.

    It’s a private party, if one doesnt care for the fact that one isn’t invited, throw your own party, invite whomever you wish. It’s mind-boggling that you do not see the ‘male privilege’attitude in that thinking.

    And of course, these articles never mention the property destruction and harassment of women done by transwomen who have snuck into fest. That never gets spoken of.

    Posted by Trish | May 9, 2013, 12:27 pm
  10. I am a black woman. That is how I identify. I have one African American parent and one white parent. I attend many many events aimed at African Americans, and many aimed at African American lesbians. I have never been turned away for being …half white.

    However, if I attended an event and the promoter informed me that the goal / intent of the event was to discuss the issues of being raised by TWO African American parents in this society, I would agree that event wasn’t the place for me. As my life experience being raised by a white mother, and black father, and how this world treated my family and me, was certainly not the same as how a black woman raised by two black parents was treated.

    I have no issues allowing those who DO fit that scope to have the event they envision. I appreciate that they are wanting to share nuances that were not a part of my upbringing & life experience.

    I do not think all events need to include all people.

    I used to attend a fat swim for women. Fat women have a hard time attending public pools. People laugh , make fun and in general make it very hard for them to enjoy swimming. Then suddenly there was a Fat swim, for women over 200 lbs. It became really popular. There started to be questions like.. IM 5’2 and 190 Im obviously fat but under the 200 lb rule, can I come? My partner wants to come as well, she’s not fat, but she certainly wouldn’t make fun of anyone, can she come? My son has two fat mothers that he loves, he’s definitely not going to say anything, can he come? The atmosphere of the fat swim changed little by little and then abruptly fell apart. Most women when asked why they no longer attended said, It was no longer the haven for fat women they enjoyed.

    There is value in space that caters to a subset, every event need not be for all people. IMHO

    I have also said before, ” make your own party “, but of course that would entail 35 years of sweat & hard work, community building, gathering of people, and saving, to finally have an event like fest. It’s much easier to just insist they include you. And cut out all the hard stuff.

    Posted by Trish | May 9, 2013, 12:35 pm
  11. yeah I talk too much…

    Just noticing that here and on other places debating this… they keep going back to “transwomen are women let them come”

    The debate isn’t about that. It’s like debating if Im black or white, becuz IM mixed. Getting caught up in defining culture and science. When the simplicity is that…

    You were not invited. The event is for black people, fat people, female people, deaf people. All those groups labels can be debated, but it isn’t necessary.

    Im having a party at my house, that I own, and Im inviting deaf people, and I define for my party. No one else has to actually agree with my definition.

    As a fat person I cant even find seating in most place in town. People should spend some time considering why they even want to be at an event where the expressed intent doesn’t include them.

    Even if my friends were going, even if I had family there. I have never wanted to go to or be someplace where I was not on the invite list.

    Posted by Trish | May 9, 2013, 12:46 pm
  12. I like this piece a lot. Staci knows that, and she and I have talked about it. I’ve also had my big ‘ole trans say about MichFest at my blog: A few additional thoughts:

    There’s some amount of hyperbole in saying “supporting Michfest is supporting transphobia,” in that not every individual who attends Michfest is inherently transphobic. However, attendees _are_ giving their money and their physical presence to an event which is exclusionary. If someone in my life were to attend Michfest, I wouldn’t immediately write them off as an ally. That said, I would be skeptical of how deep their support for the trans community actually goes.

    As for trans women speaking for ourselves, the petition Staci mentions was created by a trans woman, so it’s not like we’re not adding our voice to this conversation. I do think it’s unfortunate that The L Stop chose to run this piece and not one written by a trans woman. I know I offered them my piece, and I know Staci put The L Stop in touch with a few other trans bloggers, so it’s not as if they didn’t have any offers. In fact, I didn’t hear back when I asked L Stop co-founder Lisa Martinez in an email thread whether or not the site planned to have any trans posts on Michfest. That’s problematic. (Sidenote: I am sure Lisa and the rest of The L Stop crew is awesome, and I’m NOT saying they don’t support the trans community. A single post and a missed email do not a bigot make. Rather, I am saying that such support needs to be more explicit and apparent. For example, the website’s mission statement doesn’t explicitly include trans women.)

    Responding specifically to Trish, now.

    “First, supporting or being pro one thing, does not automatically make you anti anything else.”

    That depends entirely on what the thing in question is. To use an intentionally inflammatory example, supporting female genital mutilation automatically makes an individual anti-women, no matter how much they may object to that language. I am NOT saying that Michfest is on the moral level of FGM (it’s obviously not). I’m simply making the point that sometimes supporting one thing DOES come at the expense of something else.

    “Most “survivor” therapy recovery venues only allow the targeted population.”

    The problem is that Michfest is trying to have its cake and eat it, too. If Lisa Vogel were to come out and say, “Trans women aren’t real women, and thus aren’t allowed at Michfest” it would be horrible, but would at least be internally consistent. Instead, Vogel tries to say that, on the one hand, “transwomyn” are women, but they aren’t women _born_ women, and thus don’t deserve equality. That’s hypocritical and disingenuous, at best.

    “It’s a private party, if one doesnt care for the fact that one isn’t invited, throw your own party, invite whomever you wish. It’s mind-boggling that you do not see the ‘male privilege’attitude in that thinking.”

    I don’t think anyone is arguing that Lisa Vogel should be legally obliged to allow trans women. Saying “go throw your own party” entirely misses the point.

    “If I attended an event and the promoter informed me that the goal / intent of the event was to discuss the issues of being raised by TWO African American parents in this society, I would agree that event wasn’t the place for me. ”

    Again, that’s not how Vogel is framing it. By using “women born women” as the distinction between (for example) myself and Vogel, she’s saying that I A) wasn’t born a woman, B) my experience of womanhood is fundamentally different than hers and C) making a hierarchy of womanhood between the two of us.

    “I do not think all events need to include all people.”

    I agree. But one of the central tenants of feminism is self-identification. I don’t get to tell you what your racial, or ethnic, or religious, or sexual identities are. You don’t get to define mine, either. Gender is no different. You don’t get to define what my gender is, or how it works, or what my body parts mean. I, and only I, get to do that. Anything else is biological determinism, and how is THAT possibly feminist?

    “Just noticing that here and on other places debating this… they keep going back to “transwomen are women let them come” The debate isn’t about that”

    Yes, actually it is. If you were inviting deaf people to your party, and intentionally left out a sizable portion of the deaf population for not being deaf _enough_, you’d be an asshole. You’d be bordering on bigotry, depending on your motivations. And people would absolutely be justified in calling you on it. Even if they weren’t wanted, even if they weren’t invited, and even if they weren’t deaf.

    At the end of the day, Lisa Vogel’s policies and actions are communicating to me – me specifically, as a trans woman – that I am not as real of a woman as she is. I am relatively confident that that’s not her _intent_ , but intent is only part of how communication works. Intent is important, but it’s not everything. And, like it or not, you don’t get to define what transphobia means. As a trans person, I am telling you: YOU are being transphobic.

    Have fun with that.

    Posted by Rebecca Kling | May 9, 2013, 5:53 pm
  13. Thank you, Rebecca, for your insight. I am deeply disappointed to learn that you offered your piece to The L Stop and received no response. I can only hope that there was a miscommunication there somewhere or that there are still plans to put your piece up (or one by another trans woman who contacted them). I did not want this to become yet another incidence of the voices of trans women going unheard and I definitely did not want to appear as though my opinions on the subject are more valid than those of trans women. I had hoped this could be an opportunity to engage our community in dialogue surrounding Michfest and its exclusionary policy and to let readers of The L Stop hear the voices of my trans sisters as well. I had hoped that The L Stop would use this opportunity to lift up the voices of our trans sisters who are too often silenced. I am still hopeful that this will happen. As I’ve said before, talking the talk is all fine and well but it’s the walking part that matters.

    Posted by Staci | May 12, 2013, 10:47 am
  14. Hey Rebecca, sorry for not being direct about whether or not your post could be included on our site. We would absolutely love to feature your post as well. I also responded do you on May 9th to see if you had any additional topics that you would like to share with our readership. Our mission statement and tagline are also being updated to be more inclusive well.

    Posted by Lisa Martinez | May 13, 2013, 4:14 pm
  15. Thanks for chiming in, Lisa. I hope I made it clear that I don’t think any of my frustrations with The L Stop are intentional actions on your part. I’ll email you and continue that brainstorming about potentially contributing.

    Posted by Rebecca Kling | May 13, 2013, 6:07 pm
  16. I love Michfest. I love transfolks. I’m gender queer. Just some background.

    I attend Michfest with queers, genderqueers, and yes, with transfolks of several stripes.

    There is no policy, there is an intention, and I say that because I think that language is important. Here is the intention, quoting from Lisa’s letter: “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.”

    People choose to value the intention however they see fit. I know transfolks (mtf, ftm, and genderqueer folks) who attend the festival every year – because the way the intention is set gives folks the space to respect it how and if they choose. So I know people who respect the intention by saying “Yes, I was born a womyn regardless of gender assignation.” I know people who respect it by saying “I no longer identify full-time as a womyn, yet I was assigned and lived out that gender for a large portion of my life, and still identify with the oppression of not being a sex-assigned male.” I know people who choose not to respect it or respect it in variations of my previous examples.

    There are such deep feelings around this festival because it is such a powerful beautiful space – imperfect, but a space that can be so healing and meaningful. So it hurts to feel shut out, and it hurts to feel hate coming at the festival, from the festival, or within it.

    And when reading Lisa’s letter, I think the contexts of both the festival and the transcommunity’s struggle are important – how hard Lisa’s worked, for how long, what a difficult place she’s in as well as the hardships, pain, and sorrow transfolks face.

    At any rate, I just don’t think it’s as cut and dry as it keeps being described.

    Posted by gendearafaulker | May 15, 2013, 8:47 pm
  17. Trish well said my sistah :0) well said, and respectfully too.

    Posted by Tiff B | May 26, 2013, 6:20 am
  18. To the point of its being a private event, this is exactly why artists and festgoers are boycotting the festival. If it was a public space, I don’t expect trans* women could be excluded from a women-only space, as many states’ laws (not sure about MI) require that gendered spaces are to be accessible by those whose gender identification (driver’s license, state ID, passport) match the gender of the space. Hence, most trans* women, having identification with female gender markers, would be given access by law.

    As with any private business, Michfest relies on talent willing to help them succeed and consumers willing to pay for their services. If a moral stance held by its founders alienates enough people, any business will eventually need to reevaluate that stance or no longer be able to operate. Clearly, this is not yet the case, though, given the responses by Andrea Gibson and The Indigo Girls, it may be in the near future.

    Posted by Maya Zimmerman | June 4, 2013, 1:34 pm
  19. has this become a dictatorship? there’s no committee to decide these things??

    Posted by dee | June 19, 2013, 8:37 pm
  20. If you don’t like it, don’t go. Let the “bigots” do their healing and use your voice where it can flow.

    Posted by A. Rosen | July 8, 2013, 10:48 am
  21. Dee – It is a dictatorship! The fest is held on Vogel’s private property, so she has the final say about what happens there. 🙁

    Posted by Cassandra | July 17, 2013, 12:09 pm
  22. Michfest is NOT a problem!!! It’s one week out of the whole FUCKING YEAR where women born women gather!!! Why do HAVE TO barge your way into somewhere you’re not welcome…..for ONE FUCKING WEEK OF THE YEAR??????

    Posted by Laura | September 7, 2013, 8:43 am
  23. As a trans woman I have to break from the party line on this one. This is such a tempest in a teapot issue for the trans community and I wish we could just drop it already.

    It’s clear that the MichFest people don’t like transfolk. That’s their prerogative. If a bunch of them want to rough it in the bush for a week and sing Kumbaya and do it without trans people, well, frankly I have much bigger fish to fry.

    Employment discrimination, housing discrimination and anti-trans violence are already big enough problems in my life. Most trans women don’t have the luxury of worrying about the fact that they’re not invited to someone elses’ super special party.

    Just let them be so I can stop being blamed for the arrogance of other trans people.

    Posted by Becca K. | December 26, 2013, 5:38 pm
  24. If you have never been to Michfest I cannot explain how healing it is.

    We do not hate transwomen. That is not what it is about. It is not about hating anyone.

    I will attend Michfest as long as it exists, even if it is boycotted and we are Karoke in the woods.

    Why anyone cares astounds me. There is so much work to do in the world, think of how much good the energy expended on this cause could do.

    Posted by Red | February 22, 2014, 3:52 pm
  25. Any sample group of organisms contains myriad subsets, culminating ultimately in some individual. The definitions assigning individuals to a subset vary with the purposes for which the subsets are intellectually identified. It is in the underlying purposes that we find perceived ambiguities. If a human is born and the individual infant is identified according to the arbitrary, culturally-defined definition of “female”, certain sociological consequences generally appertain. If other members of this subset find commonalities in the general way they all seem to be assigned these consequences, the subset may commonly feel that there is a group dynamic that applies to them that may not apply to other subsets. Of course, this feeling cannot be a scientific certitude without applying scientific methodology. Feelings are not empirical facts.
    So we are left with ambiguities.
    In the present case, someone decided to “throw out there” the invitation to possible others that fit the decidedly parochial stated parameter of subset dynamic, to convene. That is a right in our society.
    The fact that this dynamic may not exist is immaterial. That is the gamble that the inviter is taking in proffering the invitation. Here it is obvious that some commonality exists, due to the success of the invitation over the years.
    Problems occur when there are other definitions of the word “female” and the populations of those other subsets feel that their populations are societally negatively affected, due to the exclusion from the invitation to convene.
    The fact is that the definition of what it means to be female or a woman is constantly evolving with the advent of ever new information that must be considered by the society in forming its mental construct of “femaleness”. This evolution will continue until the end of time. Obviously, each of us women (as we personally define ourselves) must have the right to exist. How we are accepted by others is only partially under our control. We rely on the good will of others for general inclusion. Hidden agendas and biases must come to light through opened minds. Only then will fears be allayed, fears that stem from exclusion or oppression.
    Coming home from Michigan, back into the general society, how does one interact with all the other women, however defined, who did not attend the “retreat”? Acceptingly and inclusively? That is my hope.

    Posted by Serena | May 8, 2014, 9:08 pm
  26. I have been attending Michfest off and on since it started way back in the 70’s back on the “old land.” This is when child care consisted of a sand hill with a post stuck in the ground and the words “child care” on it, where Mom’s shared the care. This was the start of the woman’s movement, women’s studies classes, Ms. Mag.etc. This was a place created for us by a lot of hard work. It has healed and saved a lot of people. Here is an incident none of you have heard about. It happened a few years back when camp trans was around only a few years. My partner and I were headed out toward parking, near the shower. A woman came out clearly upset and crying, several others were upset as well. We asked her what was wrong. A trans person, fully intact had decided it was OK to just take a shower. Others saw it too, it had literally just happened. She was full out crying about how she was a rape survivor, having just seen what we all recognize as a male organ, very often used as a tool of oppression, AND unexpectedly, and at the last place on earth where you would ever expect to see that. She was inconsolable. I guess the arrogance of this person and their issue kept them from even imagining that a potential rape survivor could be brain shocked in this way. But that is what growing up “male” can do. Clueless to the way acts like this can affect a vulnerable woman who did not deserve to see this of all things. This is the one place on earth where we could always settle in and know, we don’t have to deal with male shit, and male notion of privlege. My partner was with me, and other women confirmed they saw it too. I didn’t have the stomach to attend a few years after that. What was the point of that display? Take that? This is the very behavior we suspect will happen, pushing the limits. Can someone who says they feel female simply come in? shower? Where is the discretion? I have since come back to festival and will support it and the talent that appears. It is the one place I can walk alone at night on the earth and feel safe. For one lousy week. I am happy this woman had several of us take the time to console her. I hope the person who did this has wised up and considers the consequences of growing up female, vulnerable, getting sexually assaulted, going to a super safe place, finally, letting your hair and guard down, and very suddenly, seeing that. Think about that for a moment. Have respect for our space, don’t do the worst possible thing. Only a male born person, having lived with privledge, could possibly do such a thing, and think it was perfectly OK. See you in August.

    Posted by Caroline | May 16, 2014, 5:19 pm


  1. […] N: It’s a good question.  I’m completely supportive of the trans community, and feel like it’s ridiculous for them not to be included, but then I can see the other side too.  It’s hard because people feel so strongly about this issue and it’s hard to get a dialogue going.   I’d be interested in hearing more about it from both sides. […]

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