Dear National Center for Lesbian Rights,
Let me just make this as simple as possible:
- The Michigan Festival does not have any policy that bans trans people. Trans women and trans men attend the Festival every year, blog on it, and some work on crew. See Festival Statement.
- The Michigan Festival does not fear trans people. See above.
- The Michigan Festival recognizes trans women as women. “…we reiterate that Michfest recognizes trans womyn as womyn—and they are our sisters.”—Lisa Vogel, 2014 See above.
- The Michigan Festival sells tickets to trans people. See above.
- The Michigan Festival does not evict trans people. OVER TWENTY YEARS AGO, a trans woman was asked to leave the land. The Festival has publicly apologized for this and stated that it was wrong. Since that time a trans woman has NEVER been asked to leave the Festival. See above.
The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival’s intention is to focus on and support women born female and socialized to become members of a subordinated sex caste.
NCLR has signed onto a petition drafted by Equality [sic] Michigan that the Festival needs to change their focus and mission.
Why does NCLR feel it is any of their business as a national legal organization for lesbian rights to dictate the mission and focus of a privately-owned event founded and intended to be a support group for a specific group of women?
IN SIGNING A PETITION TO FORCE THE FESTIVAL TO DO WHAT NCLR THINKS THEY SHOULD, ONE OF TWO ASSUMPTIONS MUST HAVE BEEN MADE… NEITHER OF WHICH CAN BE SUPPORTED. HERE THEY ARE:
ASSUMPTION #1: Women born female and socialized to become members of a subordinated sex caste have no valid or justifiable grounds for considering their anatomy or their socialization to be a basis for gathering in support groups like the Michigan Festival.
Okay… just a quick little Cook’s Tour on the anatomy front:
- Shared experiences of painful-to-disabling menstrual cramps.
- The development of breasts in a culture that fetishizes them.
- The vulnerability to unwanted pregnancy from sex or rape.
- The experiences of unwanted pregnancy, abortion trauma, relinquishment for adoption.
- Pregnancy, lactation, labor, stillbirth, miscarriage, and childbirth.
- Menopause and perimenopause.
- Breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer.
- Medical misogyny: lobotomies, involuntary sterilization, punitive incarceration in mental asylums, unnecessary hysterectomies, clitorectomies, female genital mutilation, inadequate drug testing on females and pregnant women leading to deaths and birth defects, dangerous birth control.
- Trauma and body image issues resulting from exposure to pornography and the pornographizing of the culture, fetishizing of breasts, stigmatizing of menstruation (near-universal taboos against menstruating women), disproportionate discrimination against women of size, pressure on women and young girls to diet, to undergo plastic surgery, to surgically “correct” our labia.
- Historical imposition of clothing that was/is dangerous and unhealthy: foot-binding, high heels, corsets, full-length skirts.
- Brutal enforcement of feminine codes for appearance, with violence, discrimnation, and contempt directed at females with so-called masculine features.
- Syndromes associated with sexual assault perpetrated on us as females in a patriarchal culture.
And here’s another little walk-through about our socialization as members of subordinated sex caste:
- Historical exclusion from educational opportunities and employment opportunities.
- Lower wages for equal work.
- Denial of reproductive rights.
- Historical sexual harassment.
- Denial of rights to vote, to serve on juries, to own property, to own our children, to inherit, to obtain credit: Compulsory heterosexuality.
- Difficulty in gaining convictions for male perpetrators of sexual violence and domestic violence (especially true in the military and on college campuses).
- Battery and sexual assault so common that every city has shelters for battered women and rape crisis lines.
- Historical denial of access to sports.
- Incarceration for self-defense. (In spite of repeated requests, NCLR chose not to support the young African American lesbians known as the Jersey Seven, four of whom were sentenced to years in prison for defending themselves from male violence.)
- Absence of matriarchal values in the world’s major religions.
- Compulsory childbirth mandated by religion; forced breeding of enslaved women; sale and rape of our children.
- Wild underrepresentation in journalism, in television, in literature, in visual arts and theatre, and in film—which results in wildly distorted and degrading reflections of who we are, our experiences, and our agency.
- Groomed from girlhood to be commodities for males, as wives, mothers, and/or victims in prostitution, pornography, and trafficking.
- Constituting, with our children, 80-90% of the casualties in war since World War II. All wars today are wars against women.
- Mass rapes associated with wars.
- Historical rape in marriage, child “brides,” witch-burnings, “droit du seigneur,” suttee in India, FGM, honor killings.
Being born with female anatomy and socialization to a subordinated sex caste are absolutely valid grounds for seeking affinity groups and support systems, such as the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.
This cannot be the basis for NCLR’s action. Because it would be bald-faced misogyny to attempt to control any woman's right to determine for herself what her needs are and how best to meet them.
So what’s the other assumption for forcing the Festival to abandon its mission?
ASSUMPTION #2: No one community of women should ever be allowed to form support groups, events, or organizations that do not meet the needs of all women.
This means, of course, that NCLR needs to confront and sanction the hundreds of transgender organizations, events, and support groups around the country that are failing to incorporate programming to focus on the needs and issues of women born female and socialized into a subordinate sex caste.
Because if NCLR is only attacking support groups for female-born lesbians socialized into a subordinate sex caste, then they are privileging the interests of one group of lesbians over the interests of another, self-appointedly arbitrating an unwinnable “oppression derby” and distinctly violating their own mission statement.
SO… on exactly what grounds is NCLR taking such a peculiar position, attempting to undermine a particular group of citizens’ Constitutional rights of assembly and association?
**And, as an artist who has suffered and is suffering tremendous and ongoing hardship from the boycott, please have enough respect for the harm you are doing to me personally to answer my question and not send me a form letter.