“Okay here we go. I have waded through one google alert after another the last two weeks about the controversy surrounding the film “Adam”, a story about a male who poses as a trans man to get with a lesbian. It comes up in my google alert because every article tags michfest as it discusses the character’s trip to Camp Trans in 2006.
Some version of the following is being said in the articles: “Rather, the film demonstrates an authentic desire for dialogue and exploration as it depicts the internal struggles of the LGBTQ community—in the various “closets” some of the characters inhabit and in their community trip to Camp Trans, where we get a quick (though not totally thorough) education in how trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) refused to allow transwomen to attend the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.
“Let’s talk about that "authentic dialogue”. I guess it applies to everyone in the alphabet except womon-identified womyn. Particularly womon-identified womyn who were/are part of the michfest community. Because our truth is left out by the constant regurgitation of the reductive one-liner that the gay/queer/alphabet-obsessed community has used to dismiss us with for 25 years - “Refused to allow transwomen”.
So let me be clear. We did ask one trans woman to leave the festival in 1991. Period. No other trans women were asked to leave or not allowed to purchase tickets before or after that time in 1991. Prior to this, and after this transgression, we had a commitment to not question anyone’s gender…. long before hipsters were giving their preferred pronouns in every possible moment. You see, Michigan was actually populated by one of the most gender diverse communities on the planet, brimming with gender outlaws from around the world, breaking the binary for 40 years.
In 1994, the year of the first Camp Trans, a group from the camp came across to the festival, bought tickets, walked through the festival in protest, had a gathering, and returned to camp trans. Friends and workers I knew and loved were part of the walk through festival with camp trans, and attended the workshop with Leslie Fineberg and Minni Bruce Pratt. In Michigan we lived with the tension of differing opinions without shutting each other down or shaming each other to hell.
As we stated in our August 18, 2014 press release/email/fb post: “The truth is, trans womyn and trans men attend the Festival, blog about their experiences, and work on crew. Again, it is not the inclusion of trans womyn at Festival that we resist; it is the erasure of the specificity of female experience in the discussion about the space itself that stifles progress in this conversation.”
Michigan was focused on the experience and rejuvenation of females. And we believed that the biological and political oppression of womyn was real, through the times that saw so many radical peoples look the other way as females lost hard fought protections and rights - the right to choose what happens with our bodies, the right to name our bodies, the right to gather among our peers. This was our grave “error” in a time when it became essentially outlawed to be concentrated on womyn, on females - especially lesbian womyn who are focused on womyn. We had the audacity to say our gathering was intended for womyn who were born and lived their lives as females. We left the onus up to each individual to decide what they did with our intention, and moving forward, didn’t question anyone about how they handled that.
Back to the “authentic dialogue” that is heralded as the way the LGBTQI community talks about gender. Every damn reference to our gorgeous, inter-generational, radical and diverse community that pops up in the press is a monologue, an echo chamber, a party line that leaves out our truth. Furthermore, that “authentic dialogue” perpetuates the disappearance of lesbians and the diminishment of womyn. On this, the anniversary of festival week, I break silence on this issue to once again tell the truth of our story.
I call to you to tell your truth about Michigan whenever these reductive lies are the single line with which our culture is referenced in articles, text books or conversations. It’s not easy, I know. I have taken to writing my stories of the festival, a memoir of sorts, a herstory of a certain flavor. I love telling the fun and animated stories, the beautiful happenings and the craze-ass things we did, as well as the struggles that made us stronger together. Yet I am most driven to tell the painful and difficult stories of how the Festival was one of the first institutions attacked for loving females, and how for 25 years we were ground zero demonstrating to the rest of the community what kind of attack you will be under if you do not capitulate to your own disappearance. I am compelled to make sure that when our sisters of coming generations look for stories of what we created together for 40 years in those beautiful woods, they will find us, and our truth will be so clear. Time will wear the rock away.“
- Lisa Vogel, Michigan Women’s Music Festival