All the trans news that fits! (and some that never will)
Well, this really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but after 40 years, Lisa Vogel, one of the founders of Womyn’s Music Festival, or MichFest, announced she’ll be closing down the festival after this year’s bash in August. The festival has not been profitable for some time, and an immense amount of pressure to change to a more open format has come from performers, corporate sponsors, key state and national LGBTQIA organizations, and those who refused to be a part of it without changes being made. The festival simply buckled under. Lisa Vogel made the right choice.
While I don’t think ignoring the venomous anti-trans hate from TERFs is in our community’s best interest, I hope no one believes closing down this festival will do anything to end the hate. To be fair, the festival changed, indeed saved, lives. I have heard the stories. It was a healing place for women who had been abused in ways that very few men have ever known. While the festival was a safe space for thousands upon thousands of women over the years, it wasn’t just for women who had been abused. It was a festival for all women, regardless of their sexual orientation, marital status, ability, and core beliefs. Women at the festival were empowered to lift themselves and each other up, stand strong, and rest without fear. And that is a good thing.
But all that healing and empowerment should have been the common thread that brought us together, because Trans women tell the same stories of abuse, stories that few men have ever been able to tell. It’s not like this topic has never come up before. Look at this article from AutoStraddle or this one from the blog, Trans Women Belong Here, both from 2013.
What about that common thread that should have linked all women, including Trans women, to each other? What festival do we have that will bring healing to Trans women? Who comforts and empowers Trans women who have been abused, discriminated against, ridiculed, spit upon, and denied access to society’s public spaces? It’s easy for those at MichFest to say, “Get your own festival and leave us alone.” But if they came to the gate with the same needs as the women already openly accepted into the festival, shouldn’t Trans women have been offered healing, too? What festival organizers and TERFs always refused to accept and respect is that Trans women are women in need — in very great need. Our homicide, violent crime and suicide rates are astronomically higher than for those women who were made to feel welcomed to the festival.
What differentiates me, a Trans woman, from almost every woman I know is not where we are and who we are at this moment. We are women at this place and at this moment. What differentiates us is the same thing that differentiates us all, and that is our journey to get here. When I call myself a Trans woman, it is not to warn anyone or to make sure they understand that I have special needs. When I tell someone, or when I tell a crowd, that I am a Trans woman, I am honoring myself and my journey. I want others to know that I have been through hell to get here, but I am here . . . and ain’t I a woman, too?
We needed comfort, and you made sure we knew that we would find very little if any at MichFest. It was a good festival, and it could have been even more incredible if only you had reached out to us and told us, “We see your pain and we recognize it as our own. You will find some comfort here.”
Instead, Lisa Vogel and the TERFs decided that our journeys, that which defines us and gives each of us our own identities, is what separates us. We all know that hate comes from ignorance and fear, and now, after 40 years, it’s time to shut down MichFest, which did so much good work for so many women. Let’s hope we can replace it with something that is more inclusive and even more meaningful.