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.