Equality Michigan Petitions Michfest to End Exclusionary Policy

From The Advocate: http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2014/07/29/equality-michigan-petitions-michfest-end-exclusionary-policy

A perennial source of controversy, Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival’s ‘womyn born womyn’ intention comes under fire from one of the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organizations.

BY Parker Marie Molloy
July 29 2014

Equality Michigan launched a petition urging organizers of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival to put an end to their ‘Womyn Born Womyn’ intention on Monday. The rule, which festival organizers insist is not an official policy, has been described by many as transphobic.

“[W]e reject the premise that transgender women are lesser than, we reject that this belief is a tenant of feminism, and we will no longer respect the ‘intention’ or that ‘leaving the onus on each individual to choose whether or how to respect it’ equates to inclusion,” Equality Michigan wrote in a blog post. “To us, this sounds like the arguments we heard around ‘don’t ask, don’t tell‘ — and like that policy, this one just doesn’t work for us.”

Later, the organization calls upon lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to “stand up, even if it is to our own, and make it clear that transgender women deserve to be treated as women in all settings,” and adding, “The time has come, we are drawing a line in the sand, this ‘intention’ can no longer stand.”

The petition calls for an end to the “womyn born womyn” intention, for festival cofounder Lisa Vogel to meet with leaders in the transgender community, for vendors and workshop leaders to publicly voice support for an end to the policy, and for artists and attendees to boycott the festival and instead perform at and support trans-inclusive women’s events. Additionally, the petition calls on performers already committed to this year’s festival to denounce the current policy from the stage, and commit to not participating in future years.

Michfest performer Crystal Bowersox told The Advocate in May that the she believes “in equality for everyone, and I do hope that in the future the Womyn’s Fest will choose to include transgender women. In your heart, in your mind, in your lifestyle, in your body — if you’re a woman, you’re a woman. That’s that.”

Bowersox continued, saying that she remains torn on the issue, and understands the festival’s current stance. She followed this by asking festival management to “open their hearts and minds a little more.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2014/07/29/equality-michigan-petitions-michfest-end-exclusionary-policy

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Susan Brownmiller on 3 illegal abortions, for the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride 2014

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Right-Wing Backlash Against ‘Smartypants’ Like Neil deGrasse Tyson

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/right-wing-backlash-against-smartypants-neil-degrasse-tyson

Conservative elites delight in tearing down smart, educated people.

By Amanda Marcotte
July 30, 2014

If there’s one belief that binds the disparate factions of the American right together, it’s the belief in American exceptionalism, both for the nation and for individuals. The mythology that conservatism is about promoting excellence and encouraging strivers is found throughout conservative media and literature, from the story of John Galt in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged to Reagan’s description of America as a “shining city on a hill.” While it often manifests as contempt for the poor and the vulnerable, in the abstract this conservative enthusiasm for doing better could, in theory, be channeled productively toward actually pushing people to achieve.

So why are so many conservatives abandoning this enthusiasm for the exceptional in favor of what can only be described as jealous sniping aimed at people who are actually trying to expand the world creatively and scientifically? There’s a lot of high-falutin’ talk on the right about supporting the strivers, but in practice, the conservative response to someone who tries to stick his head above the crowd is to beat it down with a hammer. Conservatives may think of themselves as lovers of excellence, but in reality, “Who do you think you are?” is swiftly becoming an unofficial right-wing motto.

It’s easy to see why, despite their supposed enthusiasm for excellence, conservative pundits would offer up liberal scientists, journalists, and artists as hate objects for their base. This is a time of economic instability and ordinary people are seeing their fortunes declining. It’s easy to turn that anxiety into rage at people conservative audiences think have easy, charmed lives as coastal elites.

But in doing so, conservative pundits are exploiting their audiences, turning their class-based anger away from the people who are actually causing their economic problems, such as the Wall Street elite, and toward people who may be successful but who are not doing any harm to other Americans and are often trying to help them.  If you can get your audiences to hate journalists and scientists, they won’t hate the wealthy bankers who actually screwed them over.

This was epitomized by the recent National Review story by Charles C. W. Cooke titled “Smarter Than Thou” in which he fussed and whined about “the extraordinarily puffed-up ‘nerd’ culture that has of late started to bloom across the United States.” An illustration of the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson graced the cover, drawn to look self-satisfied, even though deGrasse Tyson hardly gives off that vibe in real life.
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Pope Francis sounds too much like Obama to be honored by Congress, Republican says

From Raw Story: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/07/30/pope-francis-sounds-too-much-like-obama-to-be-honored-by-congress-republican-says/

By Scott Kaufman
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A bipartisan congressional resolution that would honor Pope Francis before his potential appearance in Philadelphia next year may not be acted upon because of Republican worries that the pontiff is perceived as being “too liberal,” The Hill reports.

House Resolution 440 aims to “congratulate Pope Francis on his election and recognize his inspirational statements and actions,” but according to one Republican backer of the legislation, the resolution is dead because Pope Francis is “sounding like Obama. [The pope] talks about equality — he actually used the term ‘trickle-down economics,’ which is politically charged.”

Republicans are upset because of comments the Pope made concerning the free market. Last November, for example, Francis published his Evangelii Gandium, in which he noted that “[a]s long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”

He also specifically attacked President Ronald Reagan’s signature economic policy, “trickle-down theory,” writing that “[s]ome people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”

The resolution states that Pope Francis should be honored for, among other things, being the first pontiff from the Americas, as well as “his commitment to economic justice and improving the lives of the poor, and his outreach to individuals from all walks of life have been universally praised and are living examples of Jesus Christ’s message.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/07/30/pope-francis-sounds-too-much-like-obama-to-be-honored-by-congress-republican-says/

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HRC on the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival

From HRC: http://www.hrc.org/blog/entry/michigan-womyns-music-festival

July 30, 2014
by HRC staff

Post submitted by Beth Sherouse, HRC Senior Content Manager

Although I’ve never attended a Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, I always loved the idea of a female-centered musical space, where women of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds could gather to enjoy the music that shaped so many of our queer/feminist identities. What has never made sense to me or many of my queer feminist friends is Michfest’s attempt to exclude trans women from this celebration.

While the organizers continue to insist that excluding trans women is not an official policy, their “intention” that the festival cater 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.

Trans women and ciswomen (another word for non-trans women) suffer under the same patriarchal oppression, similarly restrictive ideas of what it means to be a woman, and the same structural barriers that deny women control of their own lives and bodies. The festival attempts to provide a refuge from this; to exclude some women from this refuge is simply inexcusable.

In 2013, longtime MWMF participants the Indigo Girls brought more widespread attention to the ongoing controversy when they released a statement of solidarity with trans women and vowed not to participate in future festivals until the organizers demonstrated “visible and concrete signs of changing their intention” and creating a “truly ‘safe space’ for womyn.”

As this year’s festival approaches, Equality Michigan has added their voice to the outcry against MWMF’s exclusion of trans women, stating, “We reject the premise that transgender women are lesser than, we reject that this belief is a tenet of feminism, and we will no longer respect the ‘intention’ or that ‘leaving the onus on each individual to choose whether or how to respect it’ equates to inclusion.”

I and my many colleagues at the Human Rights Campaign stand in solidarity with Equality Michigan, the Indigo Girls and the many other proud feminists calling on MichFest to live its mission and provide a place for all women to celebrate.

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New Yorker Shamefully Cites Anti-LGBT ‘Researcher’

From Bilerico: http://www.bilerico.com/2014/07/new_yorker_shamefully_cites_anti-lgbt_researcher.php

By Brynn Tannehill
July 29, 2014

All but lost in Michelle Goldberg’s recent love song to anti-transgender internet trolls in New Yorker magazine was a less-than-skeptical reference to Dr. Ray Blanchard.

While best known for promoting widely discredited and openly mocked anti-transgender theories, he is also a proponent of the idea that homosexuality is a disorder, and he denies that bisexuals exist, or at least that they are any different from heterosexuals.

Dr. Ray Blanchard is a psychologist who specializes in paraphilias. According to his Wikipedia biography, Blanchard is:

“Head of Clinical Sexology Services in the Law and Mental Health Programme of the CAMH, and he serves as a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. He served on the American Psychiatric Association DSM-IV Subcommittee on Gender Identity Disorders and was named to the DSM-5 committee. According to the Web of Science, Blanchard’s scientific articles have been cited more than 1800 times, with an h-index of 27.”

He is also responsible for more harm to the transgender community than any other person in North America — and he’s proud of it.

Anti-Trans Demagoguery

Blanchard openly admits to abusing his position to create a fake diagnosis in the DSM-5, and to resorting to unethical means to push his pet theories. He also believes that homosexuality should never have been removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

Blanchard developed a theory of a transsexualism typology which groups male-to-female transsexuals into two types: those attracted to men, and those attracted to women. He believes the ones he calls “homosexual transsexuals” are just confused gay men who think it would be easier to live as a straight woman than as a gay man. He also claims that those who are attracted to women are actually paraphiliacs who have let their fetish take over their lives.

Continue reading at:  http://www.bilerico.com/2014/07/new_yorker_shamefully_cites_anti-lgbt_researcher.php

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two articles (plus thoughts on autogynephilia as the transgender equivalent of slut-shaming)

From Julia Serano: http://juliaserano.blogspot.ca/2014/07/two-articles-related-to-femininity-and.html?spref=tw%22

By Julia Serano
Monday, July 28, 2014

Reposted with permission

Two things happened today:

1) I have a new article out on Ms. Magazine blog today called Empowering Femininity, wherein I revisit some of the ideas I initially forwarded in the chapter of Whipping Girl called “Putting the Feminine Back into Feminism.” Check it out!

2) Some of you may be aware of a New Yorker article by Michelle Goldberg that came out today entitled “What Is a Woman? The dispute between radical feminism and transgenderism.” It is basically about how Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminists (TERFs) are increasingly becoming marginalized within feminism, and it is mostly written from their perspective (e.g., about ways in which they have been personally attacked or “censored” by trans activists). Let’s just say that it is not the piece that I would have written on the matter.

I do not have the time or energy to write a formal response to the entire piece, but since I am one of the few trans voices included in the article, I feel compelled to make a few points “for the record” as it were:


1) When Goldberg interviewed me for the piece, I talked extensively about TERF attacks on trans people: About the hatefull speech I (and other trans women) regularly receive from TERFs on my Twitter feed, blog comments, etc., and how much of it is of a sexualizing nature. I talked at great length about Cathy Brennan who is notorious for her personal attacks and outing of trans people, her various websites where she engages in smear campaigns against trans women (once again, usually of a sexualizing nature). I mentioned how, after my appearance at a SF Dyke March forum on AGE DIVERSITY AND GENDER FLUIDITY – which was designed to build bridges between trans-positive queer women and those (often of older generations) who are trans unaware, and which resulted in respectful and constructive dialogue on all sides – several TERFs crashed the Facebook page and spewed so much hateful speech that they had to shut the whole thread down.

None of this made it into the story, which will likely lead uninformed readers to presume that trans people are simply mean and out of control, rather than reacting to the transphobia/trans-misogyny/sexualizing comments we constantly face from TERFs.

2) I am very disappointed with the way that the issue of “autogynephilia” was handled in the piece. I understand that Sheila Jeffreys cites the concept in her book in order to engage in a form of transgender slut-shaming (i.e., citing trans women’s sexual histories as a way to entirely dismiss them and their opinions), and that this fact could be relevant to the story. But to have a paragraph detailing Jeffreys’s and Blanchard’s views of “autogynephilia” without any counter argument or mention of the fact that THE THEORY HAS BEEN DISPROVEN here and here and here, or that cisgender women experience analogous sexual fantasies, is downright reckless. When (later on in the piece) Goldberg mentions that Jeffreys paints me out to be an “autogynephile,” I am sure many uninformed readers will believe that to be true, because no counter argument to the concept had even been mentioned.

And Goldberg’s omission here is not for lack of knowing: I discussed my concerns about this matter with Goldberg in two follow up emails – to clear the record, I will paste those emails at the bottom of this blog-post.

3) I would not exactly describe my interactions with MichFest attendees when I attended Camp Trans in 2003 as “cordial.” There were some good, positive interactions, but others were tense and somewhat hostile. I discuss this “mixed bag” of experiences in chapter 2 of my book Excluded.

4) Seriously, can we finally put to rest the “one in 10,000/one in 30,000” people are transsexual statistic. It is ancient and it has been repeatedly debunked.

That’s it. Now here is what I emailed Goldberg regarding “autogynephilia”

++++++++++++++++++
first email:

Hi Michelle,

I mentioned this recent Vice Magazine interview with Blanchard in our phone conversation the other day and said I’d send you the link. Here it is if you’re interested:

http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/heres-how-the-guy-who-wrote-the-manual-on-sex-talks-about-sex

Also, I know you said that you will be referring to autogynephilia as “controverial.” I do think that it’s fair to say that multiple lines of research by numerous researchers have shown that while the fantasies are a real phenomenon, Blanchard’s theory (specifically, that there are two “types” of trans women, and that the fantasies drive transsexuality/transition in one group) does not hold true. Also, the two researchers who actually used cisgender female controls in their studies both found that analogous fantasies are experienced by a significant number of cisgender women. 

All this research is summarized in my review:
http://learningtrans.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/serano-agreview-ijt.pdf

and Charles Moser’s review:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20582803

both were published in peer-reviewed journals in 2010.

The evidence is clear that the theory Blanchard created to explain these fantasies, and his assumption that such fantasies are transsexual-specific and cause transsexuality, are both untrue. That may not move you. But I wanted to share that with you, because it concerns me when the term “controversial” is used to give a disproven theory some legitimacy (e.g., as it is in climate change debates).

One last thought: I talked before about how the theory is often used (e.g., by Jeffreys) to sexualize trans women, thereby invalidating us. In my paper, I make the following analogy to illustrate why this is such this problem:

“Many natal women have rape fantasies. It is one thing to respectfully attempt to explore and understand such fantasies. It is an entirely different thing to insist that there are two subtypes of women – those who have rape fantasies and those who do not; to use the label “autoraptophiles” when describing women who have such fantasies and to insist that they are primarily motivated by their desire to be raped; to include “autoraptophilia” as a modifier in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; and to encourage the lay public to actively distinguish between those women who are “autoraptophiles” and those who are not. Such actions would undoubtedly have a severe, negative impact on women (who are already routinely sexualized and marginalized in our culture). Yet, proponents of autogynephilia have argued that transsexual women should be viewed and treated in an analogous manner.” 

Anyway, that’s all I wanted to add.

Best wishes, -julia

++++++++++++++++++

second email: After speaking with the fact checker from the New Yorker, I found that there were several passages from my book Whipping Girl where I discussed certain aspects of my sexual history that were going to be included in the article – I believe that they were meant to show “my side” of the story in relation to Jeffreys painting me out as an “autogynephile.” I am thankful that Goldberg did not include those passages in the final draft. But given that Jeffreys’s views and the specter of “autogynephilia” were raised in her article with regards to me and without any counter argument, I believe that it is worthwhile sharing what I wrote to Goldberg about the potential inclusion of those passages:

Obviously, I haven’t seen the whole article yet. And I understand that, as an interviewee, journalists I speak with will come to their own conclusions, and may portray me in ways that don’t necessarily jibe with how I see myself. And I realize that I am (to a certain extent) a public figure who has put myself out there via what I have written, and that people may use that in ways that I didn’t expect or do not want. So you are obviously free to write what you want. 

But I would like to share an analogy: Imagine a feminist author who writes seriously about gender and society, and whose ideas are well regarded in certain circles. And imagine someone who has very different views about gender and society – perhaps they are a religious conservative, or a men’s rights activists, or an evolutionary psychologist, or whatever. And let’s say that they wrote a book challenging feminism, and their central premise was that feminist women are primarily driven by their sexual desires (rather than out of a sincere concern about gender-based oppression or society). And when taking on this particular feminist woman in their book, they didn’t focus much on the ideas and theories she has forwarded, but instead dissected her sexual history (which maybe she wrote about in the past because, you know, women have sexualities, and gender-based-oppression is designed to make some of us feel ashamed about our sexualities, and sometimes we have to speak openly about our own sexual experiences in order to debunk heteropatriarchal assumptions that others make about our sexualities).

Anyway, imagine all that already happened. And someone outside of the situation decided to write about this controversy for a mainstream publication. How would you prefer that they cover it:

1) Spend a lot of time discussing “both sides” of the woman’s sexual history: describing the religious conservative’s/MRA’s/evolutionary psychologists’s/etc.’s depiction of her sexuality, along with passages of her describing her own sexuality (which, while in her own words, is *more discussion about her sexuality*, and which is not germane to challenging gender-based oppression and other societal issues – the major focus of her work).

or 2) Simply say that, rather than seriously engaging in a debate about the feminist woman’s ideas or theories, the author resorted to sexualizing her instead. And as feminists have shown, this is a tried-and-true method for smearing people’s authenticity and credibility (as I discussed at great length in our last phone conversation). 

You initially asked to interview me about the “tensions between trans activists and some radical feminists” (which I provided my thoughts on over the course of the interview process). I honestly don’t understand how sexual thoughts that I had over twenty years ago (as a young trans person trying to sort out my identity) has any bearing on these tensions, other than the fact that Jeffreys stoops to the transgender equivalent of slut-shaming in her book.   

Anyway, I haven’t seen the whole article yet, so I will reserve judgment on the totality of it until it finally comes out. But I did want to share my concerns about this particular aspect of the article ahead of time. As a woman and a public figure yourself, I’m sure you can understand why having one’s sexual history litigated in the pages of a mainstream magazine might seem troubling (to put it extremely mildly). And if you had/have ever written about your previous sexual experiences in a publication that primarily targeted your own demographic in order to help folks better understand, and not feel ashamed about, their analogous experiences, I imagine that you too might be worried about how those same passages might be misinterpreted by lay audiences if excerpted in a major mainstream publication (especially one your relatives, potential future employers, etc., regularly read).

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