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Trans men/women and men/women are/are not the same

 
  

Page: 1234(5)6

 
 
elene
21:46 / 05.08.06
Yes, alas, it is the same womyn born womyn view, but with a certain class of transsexuals included, and again it elevates the notion of cisgenderism to the status of reality. Actually the issue of reality is quite explicit in both cases, it’s all about deciding who are the real women, who are the real transsexuals. So in that way it's obviously an application of the master tool's too, I think.
 
 
elene
11:56 / 07.08.06
I suppose I ought to have said a little more in my last reply but I'm reluctant to get more deeply involved in this discussion, or in the Headshop. I don't feel I have the theoretical background for this. For instance, I understand reification as the elevation of an idea to the status of objective reality, which tends to happen in pairs, as "good" and "evil" are created at every possible turn in the USA. I'm sure it implies much more than that to anyone with a background in theory, but I'm not one of those people, so I'm sorry if some of my ideas are a bit gauche.

When Thompson says:

I am all for laws that recognize the variety of human existence, but not if the result threatens to pull the well constructed framework for being born transsexual down into the murky waters of Marxist philosophy and "I want what I want when and how I want it" cultural narcissism.

She means that, as far as she's concerned, there are genuine transsexuals, people with a birth defect that can be corrected through surgery, but there are also people involved in a revolutionary struggle to overthrow the power/gender relation and people who just enjoy a transgendered lifestyle. She says that while she normally has nothing against "laws that recognize the variety of human existence," she feels that recognition of the latter two groups can only proceed at the expense of the first group, the (true) transsexuals, and that is unacceptable.

For Thompson, the self-evidently genuine need of someone "born into the wrong body" can only be diminished by acknowledging that other people might wish to live or modify their body like a transsexual for other, and, she thinks, lesser, reasons.

In my experience, this stance is near universal among transsexuals.

I think this is clearly an application of the "master's tools" because it separates into good and bad, into true and false, which is an excellent example of divide and conquer.
 
 
Disco is My Class War
13:20 / 07.08.06
God, the sentiments espoused in that article make me want to strangle something or someone very slowly and painfully.

But anyhow... alas, I think that what's happening in Thompson's picture of politics is a 'scarcity model' of rights/recognition. In this model, rights are like money: they are a finite resource and can only be possessed by a particular group at the expense of others (particularly similar others, whose claims for rights therefore must be 'debunked'.)

But it's quite important to trace the line along which this model divides 'us', I think. The line is traced along an axis of respectability. It's about standards of authenticity, yes, but I think that devolves, finally, into respectability. 'True' transsexuals are those who see their condition as a disease, related to their individual body, and who do not relate the difference of that body to gender hegemony. 'True' transsexuals are also usually those who can pass as 'authentic', thus reifying cisgenderism. But the only way to gauge authenticity is the ability of a person to assimilate back into the social fabric from which they came, and to perform so-called 'universal' gender attributes that match a person's chosen sex, no? And what is 'universal'? The standards of the white middle-class, of course... So the distinction between 'true transsexual' and not is also related to class and race and the differene between 'bourgeoisie' gender variant bodies and 'lumpen' gender variant bodies. (By 'lumpen', I mean lumpenproletariat, those who are not only poor but have that difference inscribed on their bodies somehow, who live 'outside the system'.) Thus, I would argue that the reification of cisgenderism in Thompson's piece conceals something more politically pernicious.

It does sort of fit with transphobic feminist separatism, but at least feminist separatists usually have some analysis of class and/or race to go with their transphobia. In my experience, people who spin the 'true transsexuals' line usually have no politics to speak of, and use the line to attempt to individually retain the shreds of privilege they may have once had passing as middle-class cisgendered men or women. I think, actually, that this can manifest as a fear response to the awesome loss of privilege one takes on, moving from legally cisgendered to legally trans. But don't all models of scarcity stem from fear?
 
 
alas
17:09 / 07.08.06
Thanks for both these responses, elene and Mr. D.

I have genuine sympathy for a fear response, because fear is so human and vulnerable, but one which, thus, often gets expressed as a defensive anger, which puts a kind of "shield" in front of that vulnerability, or seems to. As a teacher, I wonder how to get students who I suspect are arguing from fear--but who often seem to be arguing from anger--to feel safe enough to drop the anger and move into a more open, and, to my mind, clear-headed place where they actually look at the fear that's driving the anger.

It's also how I feel towards the MWMF organizers--as I've said, I do think, perhaps naively, that they're arguing from fear, from scarcity, from defensiveness, and I know from my own experience that I rarely make the best decisions and rarely make the best arguments, when I'm in that mode. When I do look at my own fear--which can only happen when I feel safe enough to admit that what I'm dealing with is fear, not righteous anger--it's quite extraordinary what happens: the anger just practically instantly vanishes and the fear shrinks before my eyes, and I start to be able to "see" others more clearly.

But before I've made that change, the more dug in I feel, & the more public I've made my stance, the harder it gets to change course, without feeling like I have no integrity.

Infinite patience seems to be required for getting people to change with integrity, however, and that, again, means that the people being "locked out" by the people able to make a "superior" claim to resources, are the ones being called upon to be patient, kind, understanding... Even while their own life and health may, in some cases, perhaps all cases, be at stake.

And so it's so easy for it all to become crabs in a barrel, again, as we become very aware, again and again, of the fact that, in general, we're all a bit outside the cultural centers of power. We then start competing in all directions--arguing about who is the most "outside," who is the most wounded, who has the most legitimate claims, who has access to the fewest resources...And so much energy is lost, and we're all still mostly at the bottom of the barrel, wounding each other. Damn it.

The problem being that defensive anger in response to these kinds of exclusive claims to social/cultural/economic resources often has the effect of making the slightly more privileged group batten down the hatches even more--and bring out bigger guns, if they have 'em. That's the effect on me, anyway, when I'm resisting change and defending some turf.

Hence the birth of nonviolent resistance, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Henry Thoreau, Rosa Parks, Code Pink, and Camp Trans, I guess. Duh--this is all obvious, I realize.

But, I guess what I'm getting at, is that there is a spiritual dimension to all effective protest, and I keep thinking it has to be grounded in love for the other, love for the "enemy." But what exactly does that mean? And is that just the christian hegemony of my world showing? (That's where the language comes for me, but it's clearly there in Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, .... Love is it. And requires immense courage. But the language can be so squiggy.)

I've never been able to get to an ethical question that doesn't lead me inevitably back to this place--and normally what happens is the discussion then completely shuts down, which drives me nuts, so I hope someone will respond to this.

But, to forge some kind of an answer to myself: when I think of love, in this sense, it means letting my enemies _be_ who they are--not necessarily needing to make them into my "friends." To love my enemies, I think, is to keep striving get at who they are under the shield they're using to protect themselves, which may include their guns, and to not seek to "know them better than they know themselves" which is condescending and illusory no matter where it's coming from, although relatively disempowered people often have much to teach relatively empowered people about themselves.

To accept that all people have some mystery in them. But not necessarily to turn them into "me."

This process can look, however, like a pure capitulation to their "strength." (Some people, I think, read my reaction to Shadowsax in the infamous Fathers 4 Justice thread that way, for instance. Although it always felt like I was speaking from my strength, to him, and not from my fear, I did have to wonder and examine it and couldn't be sure there wasn't something to that.)

It always seems possible that what I'm doing *is* still grounded in my fear of their big guns--which can easily go underground and disguise itself because it is an old & big fear--*rather* than my sense that I'm working from a place where I know that the guns are a sign of their vulnerability. I have to examine that, and be a little wary of my instincts. And this hits a kind of impasse for me.

Because, of course, I have to ask, if I am patient even as I work to break down their defensiveness, and people are being wounded or dying in the meantime, is my work worthwhile? Is this hopeless work?

I hope this is not hopelessly off topic--it feels, to me, like I'm still talking about the issue of "sameness" and "difference," and that love is somewhere the squishy thing at the core of this, but others may disagree.

(And, elene, I've said it before and I'll say it again: I think you do just fine in the Headshop, fwiw. I always read your responses carefully, because I know they'll be worth reading--which is not how I approach everyone on these boards. It's 'cause you're a good thinker--& the vocabulary is not so important. I'm glad you're here.)
 
 
Disco is My Class War
06:08 / 08.08.06
alas reminded me, also, to say -- elene, I really enjoy your posts to this and other threads, and you sound pretty on top of whatever it is that you talk about.

This is totally off-topic, and maybe we should start another thread (don't know what I'd call it, though.) If another thread is started, I'll happily move this post to it. alas, I think that knowing the other can also involve knowing where there is no possibility of love, and where emotion doesn't come into it. For huge corporations, you're not going to change their minds by making them love other people -- you're going to change their minds when it becomes less profitable for them to continue what they're doing than change their ways. I think that works with governments, too. Smaller, more 'people-based' politics can be different, I guess, but sometimes that's the same too. When people are only cognisant of the profits of their actions, that's where you hit them. And I'm not sure it's possible to think of that in terms of love, or in specific terms of non-violence. Or, maybe it's a really crazy kind of love. I don't know.
 
 
sorenson
07:40 / 08.08.06
This thread-rot direction is related to an idea that I've been having for a thread about the way that governments go about policy reform and what motivates them to do so. So rather than responding more fully here I'll stop the thread-rot and go off and formulate a new thread! (It might take me until tomorrow to get it right.)
 
 
elene
15:54 / 09.08.06
But, I guess what I'm getting at, is that there is a spiritual dimension to all effective protest, and I keep thinking it has to be grounded in love for the other, love for the "enemy."

Well, I don't know about love and protest, but if you want to get along with a dog you've got to be ready to get nipped the very first time you touch, perhaps because so many dogs have been abused, they want to know right away whether or not your another abuser and whether you're the stronger too. And of course getting to know a whole group of dogs is a lot more complicated again. On the other hand dogs don't have any explicit rules, just a hierarchy that needs to be acknowledged.

Anyway you've got to care enough to put up with some unpleasantness and perhaps some pain, and that certainly applies to any group one wants to join. Some people are very defensive, aggressively so. One usually needs to make it very clear that one does respect the group, one wants to fit in, but one won't be walked over either. I imagine any trans person who goes to MWMF does that, of course in another way they're not doing it at all though because they're not respecting the rules. Then again the rules clearly don't matter if you do fit in because in that case there's no problem. I imagine.

OK, so, if instead of passing and fitting in we've got to renegotiate things, modifying the boundaries, well, yes, I suppose you can say there is a love for the other involved. We don't want to pretend we are the same, but we want a boundary that encloses us both. We want to have a shared experience acknowledged. I'm not sure what the consequences are though. I do think how you tried to deal with Shadowsax was good, but you're right, you were in a position of strength. You didn't need his good-will so that's easy compared to a lesbian trans woman who can't go to MWMF with her friends if she respects the rules.

I'm trying, really.
 
 
alas
18:03 / 09.08.06
Great answers, everyone--this is very very helpful to me. Thank you. I'm pondering away, and will perhaps have something useful to say at some point that's square on the topic of sameness and difference, and I accept that maybe "what's love got to do with it?" is a separate question....although I'm still thinking on this. But thanks.
 
 
Sterra
16:46 / 15.08.06
I think this is clearly an application of the "master's tools" because it separates into good and bad, into true and false, which is an excellent example of divide and conquer.

I think that the problem is not seperation or moralizing. The problem is when beliefs are incorrect or when one attempts to hurt another.

"true transsexuality" for example is a disease much in the same way anything else is a disease. People often say that depressed people don't need pills or whatever and that they can just walk it off or whatever. This is dangerous and potentially harmful.

So I think that there should be fear of that, but the loss of privlege is a small fear. The much larger fear should be of being incorrect.
 
 
elene
18:16 / 15.08.06
I think that the problem is not seperation or moralizing. The problem is when beliefs are incorrect or when one attempts to hurt another.

So you think the master’s tools can be used to dismantle the master’s house.

So I think that there should be fear of [people not getting treatment they need], but the loss of privlege is a small fear. The much larger fear should be of being incorrect.

Well, loss of privilege may seem small to you and the fear of a false diagnosis great, Sterra, but I assure you that was not Suzie Cooke’s situation when she invented this notion.

Suzan is definitely a woman, had been a true transsexual (in the Benjamin scale sense, having been treated by him) some 25 years earlier and had been very open and honest about the whole business. When she found herself rejected as a woman at a rather difficult point in her life she experienced it, as far as I could tell, as a refusal of privileges every cisgendered person can take for granted, those that depend on nothing more than one's being a real woman or a real man. That inspired her to define a new category of women, born not women, but rather transsexual.

Suzan was quite egalitarian about who could or couldn’t be a woman or a transsexual – she seemed to think that in the long run some trans people would settle permanently into their new gender whereas others would revert to their original gender, and some would oscillate between genders forever - but she nevertheless felt herself forced to draw a line in the sand somewhere if she wanted to claim those rights reserved only for real woman.
 
 
Sterra
18:45 / 15.08.06
So you think the master’s tools can be used to dismantle the master’s house.

No. I think that fundamentally it is an issue of understanding rather than oppression.

Well, loss of privilege may seem small to you and the fear of a false diagnosis great, Sterra, but I assure you that was not Suzie Cooke’s situation when she invented this notion.

Not so much a fear of a false diagnosis as a fear of people who lack an understanding of the issue representing themselves as authorities and convincing people to take a bad path.
 
 
elene
19:00 / 15.08.06
Not so much a fear of a false diagnosis as people who lack an understanding of the issue representing themselves as authorities and convincing people to take a bad path.

I think you may have the wrong thread, Sterra, as it seems you’ve got concerns regarding the lack of effectiveness of gender reassignment rather than concerns about whether trans men/women and men/women are/are not the same.
 
 
Sterra
19:18 / 15.08.06

I think you may have the wrong thread, Sterra, as it seems you’ve got concerns regarding the lack of effectiveness of gender reassignment rather than concerns about whether trans men/women and men/women are/are not the same.


Nope. This is the right thread. Can you explain why you think I have the wrong one?
 
 
elene
19:28 / 15.08.06
Nope. This is the right thread. Can you explain why you think I have the wrong one?

For instance,

"true transsexuality" for example is a disease much in the same way anything else is a disease. People often say that depressed people don't need pills or whatever and that they can just walk it off or whatever. This is dangerous and potentially harmful.

So I think that there should be fear of that, but the loss of privlege is a small fear. The much larger fear should be of being incorrect.


and

Not so much a fear of a false diagnosis as people who lack an understanding of the issue representing themselves as authorities and convincing people to take a bad path.

I don’t see the relevance of this here, but others might. On the other hand it seems very relevant to the other thread.
 
 
Ticker
19:56 / 15.08.06
The much larger fear should be of being incorrect.

I'm not sure what 'incorrectness' you are sourcing here.
 
 
*
20:07 / 15.08.06
Sterra, before this goes much further, can I suggest this probably deserves it's own thread? I'll happily start one if I don't find one in the archives. So far this thread has avoided dealing with the complex notion of who really is trans and who is not really trans, and I think that's worth engaging in a critical way somewhere we can devote full attention to it.
 
 
*
22:17 / 15.08.06
Edited on Sunday, August 20th, because I found a substantiated account that the author explicitly gave permission to repost.

From here:

Since there seems to be a lot of confusion about what actually happened at Michigan this year, I thought I would write up an account of the significant events during the week, along with my own analysis of where we stand now. If you want the short version, go here. Below is a more detailed account. This can be reposted. For disclosure, I've been attending Camp Trans for four years and was an organizer in 05.


What Happened


This is to the best of my recollection but some of it is secondhand so not all the details may be correct.

On Tuesday, my friend Lorraine (a CT organizer and a trans woman) walked down to the festival gates, identified herself as a transsexual woman, and asked to buy a ticket. CT does this every year to see if the policy is still in force. This year, as in past years, the gate workers handed her a one-page document briefly describing the intention of the fest that it be a space for "women-born women" only. This familiar document is very obviously several years old as it refers to the 26th annual fest. So Lorraine did something no one had yet thought to do: she pointed out that the document was out-of-date, and asked what the current policy is. The gate workers said they would check with their supervisors.

Some furious radio communication must have ensued because, as some workers later told us, the Fest organizers told the workers to destroy all remaining copies of this document, and if any trans women showed up, to sell them a ticket. (Some background: for a couple years now, the festival has conspicuously removed all mention of the policy from all their materials, even going so far as to delete it from the internet archives of their website. I'm betting the organizers didn't realize this document - the only remaining mention of the policy - was still being handed out.)

Lorraine didn't realize all this was going on, but when the gate workers came back, their first words were "Visa or Mastercard?" She paid the highest amount of the sliding scale. So Lorraine became the first trans woman to openly enter the festival. The workers shouted "Festie Virgin!" at her, she went through the usual orientation, and she signed up for two workshifts. Then she went back to CT to rest and think.

The next day, a courier from the festival arrived at CT with a letter addressed to Lorraine from Lisa Vogel (the festival owner-organizer). LV asked that it not be republished so I will paraphrase the gist of it. It was respectful and cordial in tone. After some pleasantries, she wrote that even though it was the policy of the fest to sell a ticket to anyone, there was an "expectation" that trans women respect the intention of the fest to be a space for women who have lived their whole lives as women.

This letter caused quite a stir at CT. Why would the festival suddenly decide to sell a trans woman a ticket, then ask her not to come in? My personal opinion is that they are taking the path of least resistance and avoiding any negative publicity. Turning away a woman at the gates is plain bad PR. But publicly changing the policy would be seen by some as capitulation, and it would alienate a certain segment of festies. So LV decided to take the middle ground.

After taking a day to think it over, Lorraine wrote Lisa back, saying that she intended to return to fest on Friday, explaining that she felt Lisa's definition of fest did, in fact, include her.

Another unexpected development happened about the same time. Emilia, another CT organizer and trans woman, had submitted a workshop proposal to Fest but never heard back from them. Browsing through the MichFest program, we saw that her workshop had in fact been scheduled. So on Friday morning, Emilia bought a ticket and entered Fest along with Lorraine and Jess, CT's on-land organizer. They spent the day exploring the festival, talking to people, and doing their workshifts. That afternoon, at Emilia's workshop, both she and Lorraine outted themselves and facilitated a discussion of how to make Fest a welcoming space for trans women. The crowd was largely supportive.

Before the CT performances on Saturday night, a number of speakers claimed victory.


Analysis


Now a valid response to all this is, "But the Fest hasn't formally renounced the policy or welcomed trans women." That's true. But what are the real goals of Camp Trans' protest? If it's to get the Festival organizers to officially recant the policy and embrace trans women with open arms, I'm convinced that's not ever going to happen while Lisa Vogel is in charge. But if our real goal is to create an environment where trans women can openly buy a ticket and attend the festival without getting harassed or kicked out, then we're already a long way toward winning.

At some point we have to ask, does the policy really still exist? If it is not stated publicly anywhere, if it is so ambiguous that even the gate workers are no longer enforcing it, if it exists only as a vague "expectation" on the part of Lisa Vogel, does it really exist? Effectively, no. Our strategy must shift from changing a policy that doesn't exist, to creating a welcoming space from the inside out, from the bottom up.

I know that 'working from the inside' has been a controversial idea with respect to Michigan. Purely as a matter of principle, I have long believed that it is ridiculous to claim to be 'working from the inside' while giving the festival hundreds of dollars each year. Until this year, I was very skeptical of anyone who made this claim, for a couple reasons. One, few people ever seemed very serious about challenging the policy from the inside. No one was making any attempt to actually organize attendees or workers in support of trans inclusion; the claim of 'working from the inside' was mostly an excuse given by folks who wanted to have their MichFest vacation without losing ally cred.

Second, there was rarely any accountability toward Camp Trans or trans women in general. No one knew what, exactly, was being done or said on our behalf. Some people on the inside were advocating for trans men on the Land. Others thought only post-op trans women should be allowed in. Still others wanted an end to women-only space entirely. To be an ally, you must be accountable to the people you are supporting. The exclusive nature of the festival makes this very difficult. (As an obvious example of this, I remember the interviews that Amy Ray did with policy supporters/dissenters a couple years ago. She conducted all the interviews on the land at fest, which obviously precluded any trans women's voices from being included in the debate).

But as I said, I have recently changed my mind about the value of on-land work. Over the past three years we have begun to see a more serious organizing effort on the part of some attendees. The great folks at Toys in Babeland, in particular, have been invaluable allies on the land and have donated their space, time, and money to help Camp Trans. Several workers have shared their knowledge of fest and acted as eyes and ears on the land. And this past year, the creation of the yellow armbands group marks perhaps the most significant on-land organizing effort to date. I spoke with Dandy, the main organizer, several times during the week, and she impressed me with her dedication to actually organizing festival attendees. So my first reservation is becoming moot.

As to the accountability problem, it too is moot if trans women can now openly enter the festival. As a practical matter, I think working from the inside is essential at this moment. Camp Trans can only do so much from the other side of the road. It's now up to the women who attend fest - including trans women - to create a space that is welcoming for trans women. Whether the policy has been explicitly changed or not doesn't matter. It's not being enforced in the slightest. The boycott of Michigan has served its purpose and needs to be ended now.


Where do we go from here?


At this point, I believe trans women and allies who wish to go to fest should go. Two problems remain: the high cost of Michigan, and lingering transphobia on the Land. At CT, we discussed the possibility of subsidizing a limited number of tickets for trans women who wish to go inside next year. This will require a lot of fundraising but it's doable. We also discussed working with fest workers to create an "anti-transphobia space" at fest next year, a safe space for those who are inside.

The debate surrounding Michigan needs to shift from "Should we change the policy?" to "How can we create a safe and welcoming environment for the trans women who are here?" To this end, it would be nice to have as many allies as possible at Fest next year.

As for CT, I expect it will still be around for some time. The community building we have accomplished over 12 years is just too invaluable to lose. CT can continue to be a welcoming place for trans women who don't want to spend the entire week at Michigan. And it can continue to be a great space for trans art, activism, and organizing. I would like to see it become a boot camp to train activists in doing community organizing at the local level, because, frankly, I am more than ready to put our collective energies toward more pressing and widespread issues.


Lauren Steely
August 2006
 
 
elene
09:50 / 16.08.06
    elene: I think this is clearly an application of the "master's tools" because
    it separates into good and bad, into true and false, which is an excellent
    example of divide and conquer.

    Sterra: I think that the problem is not seperation or moralizing. The problem is
    when beliefs are incorrect or when one attempts to hurt another.

    elene: So you think the master's tools can be used to dismantle the master's
    house.

    Sterra: No. I think that fundamentally it is an issue of understanding rather
    than oppression.

I looked at this again, Sterra, and, leaving aside your concern that some people may be transitioning or are being advised to transition who you think oughtn't, this is what's relevant, as far as I can tell.

I think dividing people into good and bad or into true and false is only ever done in order to control them. I consider this an instance of divide and conquer, for anyone who's momentarily "good" must fear being re-categorised as "bad" should they deviate from a set of rules who's essential purpose is to maintain the status quo. I'm not saying the group draws no benefits from this system, it does, just as a pack of dogs benefits from it's hierarchy.

Your response to this is that the system is not wrong in principle, that "the problem is when beliefs are incorrect or when one attempts to hurt another."

I agree that's the immediate problem. If the MWMF decides that trans women are OK women then this problem will be solved in this particular instance. My problem is that I'm sure that this will not happen. Rather some subset of trans women, perhaps the women-born-transsexual, will eventually be acknowledged as legitimate (women) while others will continue to be rejected. I'm sure that will result in a situation where people who benefited exceptionally from their previous male privilege, or from class privilege, will be allowed access - will essentially have bought themselves access - whereas other, less privileged trans people will continue to be excluded.

I may be wrong, but this is how I think it works. This is what happens when one tries to dismantle the master's house using the master's tools.

So, we disagree.
 
 
Goodness Gracious Meme
18:11 / 22.08.06
Passed on from a friends lj/mailing lists:

****************

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 21, 2006

CONTACT: Emilia Lombardi, 412-480-4032; Bryn Kelly, 614-352-4782

Michigan Women's Music Festival ends policy of discrimination against Trans women

After 15 years of controversy, supporters welcome trans women to "The Land".

HART, MICHIGAN - ” The Michigan Women's Music Festival began admitting openly trans (transgender/transsexual) women last week, bringing success to a longstanding struggle by trans activists both inside and outside the festival.

"Seeing trans women inside the festival for the first time brought me to tears," said Sue Ashman, who attends the festival every year. "It's restored my faith in women's communities."

Ashman said "I have friends who have already committed to bringing themselves and others for the first time next year."

Organizers of Camp Trans, the annual protest across the road from the festival, say that every year at least one trans woman at Camp Trans walks to the festival gate with a group of supporters, explains that she is trans, and tries to buy a ticket. In past years, the festival box office has produced a printed copy of the policy and refused.

"This time, the response was, 'cash or credit' said Jessica Snodgrass, a Camp Trans organizer and festival attendee who spent the week reaching out to supporters inside the fest. "They said the festival has no policy barring any woman from attending."

The woman purchased her ticket on Wednesday and joined supporters inside the festival. Another trans woman, Camp Trans organizer Emilia Lombardi, joined on Friday to facilitate a scheduled workshop discussion on the recently-retired policy.

"This kind of discussion has happened before inside the fest," said Lombardi. "But for the first time in years, trans women were part of the conversation. Over 50 women shared their thoughts about what the inclusion of trans women means for the Festival and how we can move forward."

"We didn't expect to change anyone's minds in the workshop -- but in the end we didn't need to. The support we found was overwhelming."

Both trans women say they were moved by how friendly and supportive other festival attendees were.

"We spent all day inside the festival, talking with other women about how Michigan has grown to embrace the diversity of women's experience," Lombardi said. "The attitudes of festival goers have definitely shifted since the early 90's."

With their original mission accomplished, organizers say Camp Trans will continue to be a place for trans people and allies to build community, share ideas, and develop strategies for change. And they will keep working together with festival workers and attendees to make sure trans women who attend the fest next year have support and resources.

Camp Trans will partner with a group of supporters inside the fest next year to establish an anti-transphobia area within the festival. Representatives from Camp Trans and A group of festival workers and attendees, organizing under the name "The Yellow Armbands," plan to educate people on trans issues and provide support to trans and differently gendered women. Festival attendees have worn yellow armbands for the past three years as a symbol of pro-trans inclusion solidarity.

Both Camp Trans and supporters at the fest say they are excited to be working together to welcome trans women and support a trans-inclusive, women-only space.

"This is not about winning," said Snodgrass. "It's about making our communities whole again. The policy divided people against each other who could be fighting on the same side. We want to be part of the healing process."

Camp Trans (camp-trans.org) is an effort to end discrimination against trans women within women's communities. For 14 years, Camp Trans has been a site for trans people and allies to protest the policy, build community, and develop strategies for change.

BACKGROUND

The festival's policy against trans women was first enforced in 1991, when festival security ejected Nancy Burkholder from the grounds of the festival.

As the largest women-only festival of its kind, and as one of the few remaining women's events to openly discriminate against trans women, the festival was well known for its policy, drawing criticism from trans activists and festival attendees. Two years ago, a group of attendees deployed a 25-foot banner opposing the policy during the headline act.
 
 
Disco is My Class War
05:24 / 23.08.06
And this is the MichFest press release:



MICHIGAN WOMYN’S MUSIC FESTIVAL SETS THE RECORD “STRAIGHT”

Hart, Michigan – Seeking to correct misinformation widely distributed by “Camp Trans” organizers, Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival founder and producer Lisa Vogel released the following clarification:

“Since 1976, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival has been created by and for womyn-born womyn, that is, womyn who were born as and have lived their entire life experience as womyn. Despite claims to the contrary by Camp Trans organizers, the Festival remains a rare and precious space intended for womyn-born womyn.”

The facts surrounding the interactions between WWTMC and Camp Trans organizers are as follows:

In the months preceding this year’s Festival, held August 8 – 13, there was communication between a Camp Trans organizer named Lorraine and Lisa Vogel. Letters from Lorraine continued during the Festival, when they were hand-delivered to the Festival’s front gate from Camp Trans, which takes place on Forest Service Land across from Festival property. On Tuesday, August 8th, Camp Trans organizers inquired at the Box Office about Festival admission. They were told that the Festival is intended for womyn-born womyn, and that those who seek to purchase tickets are asked to respect that intention. Camp Trans organizers left without purchasing tickets. They returned the next day and were given the same information. Lorraine at that point chose to purchase a ticket.

On Wednesday, August 9th, Vogel sent a reply letter to Lorraine which stated in part:

“I deeply desire healing in our communities, and I can see and feel that you want that too. I would love for you and the other organizers of Camp Trans to find the place in your hearts and politics to support and honor space for womyn who have had the experience of being born and living their life as womyn. I ask that you respect that womon born womon is a valid and honorable gender identity. I also ask that you respect that womyn born womyn deeply need our space -- as do all communities who create space to gather, whether that be womyn of color, trans womyn or trans men . . . I wish you well, I want healing, and I believe this is possible between our communities, but not at the expense of deeply needed space for womyn born womyn.”

Vogel’s written request that Camp Trans organizers respect the Festival as womyn-born-womyn space was consistent with information provided to Camp Trans organizers who approached the Festival Box Office. “Does this represent a change in the Festival’s commitment to womyn-born womyn space? No.” says Vogel. “If a transwoman purchased a ticket, it represents nothing more than that womon choosing to disrespect the stated intention of this Festival.”

“As feminists, we call upon the transwomen’s community to help us maintain womyn only space, including spaces created by and for womyn-born womyn. As sisters in struggle, we call upon the transwomen’s community to meditate upon, recognize and respect the differences in our shared experiences and our group identities even as we stand shoulder to shoulder as women, and as members of the greater queer community. We once again ask the transwomen’s community to recognize that the need for a separate womyn-born womyn space does not stand at odds with recognizing the larger and beautiful diversity of our shared community.”

* * *

In an effort to build further understanding of the Festival’s perspective, answers are provided to questions raised by the recent Camp Trans press release (which contains misinformation):

Why would the Festival sell a ticket to an individual who is not a womon-born womon if the Festival is intended as a space created by and for womyn-born womyn? From its inception the Festival has been home to womyn who could be considered gender outlaws, either because of their sexual orientation (lesbian, bisexual, polyamorous, etc.) or their gender presentation (butch, bearded, androgynous, femme – and everything in between). Many womyn producing and attending the Michigan Festival are gender variant womyn. Many of the younger womyn consider themselves differently gendered, many of the older womyn consider themselves butch womyn, and the dialogue is alive and well on the Land as our generational mix continues to inform our ongoing understanding about gender identity and the range of what it means to be female. Michigan provides one of the safest places on the planet for womyn who live and present themselves to the world in the broadest range of gender expression. As Festival organizers, we refuse to question anyone’s gender. We instead ask that womon-born womon be respected as a valid gender identity, and that the broad queer and gender-diverse communities respect our commitment to one week each year for womyn-born womyn to gather.

Did the Festival previously refuse to sell tickets to transwomen? The Festival has consistently communicated our intention about who the Festival is created by and for. In 1999, Camp Trans protesters caused extensive disruption of the Festival, in which a male from Camp Trans publicly displayed male genitals in a common shower area and widespread disrespect of women’s space was voiced. The following year, our 25th anniversary, we issued a statement that we would not sell tickets to those entering for the purpose of disrupting the Festival. While this is widely pointed to by Camp Trans supporters as a "policy," it was a situational response to the heated circumstances of 1999, intended to reassure the womyn who have attended for years that the Festival remained – as it does today – intended for womyn who were born as and have lived their entire life experience as womyn, despite the disrespect and intentional disruption Camp Trans initiated.

Is the Festival transphobic? We strongly assert there is nothing transphobic with choosing to spend one week with womyn who were born as, and have lived their lives as, womyn. It is a powerful, uncommon experience that womyn enjoy during this one week of living in the company of other womyn-born womyn. There are many opportunities in the world to share space with the entire queer community, and other spaces that welcome all who define themselves as female. Within the rich diversity now represented by the broader queer community, we believe there is room for all affinity groups to enjoy separate, self-determined, supportive space if they choose. Supporting womyn-born womyn space is no more inherently transphobic than supporting womyn of color space is racist. We believe that womyn-born womyn have a right to gather separately from the greater womyn’s community. We refuse to be forced into false dichotomies that equate being pro-womyn-born womyn space with being anti-trans; indeed, many of the womyn essential to the Michigan Festival are leaders and supporters of trans-solidarity work. The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival respects the transsexual community as integral members of the greater queer community. We call upon the transsexual community in turn to respect and support womyn-born womyn space and to recognize that a need for a separate womyn-born womyn space does not stand at odds with recognizing transwomen as part of the larger diversity of the womyn’s community.

What is Camp Trans? Camp Trans was first created in 1994 as a protest to the Festival as womyn-born womyn space. Camp Trans re-emerged in 1999 and has been held across the road from the Festival every year since. A small gathering of people who camp and hold workshops and a few performances on Forest Service land across the road, Camp Trans attempts to educate womyn who are attending the Festival about their point of view regarding trans inclusion at the Festival. At times they have advocated for the Festival to welcome anyone who, for whatever period of time, defines themselves as female, regardless of the sex they were born into. At other times, Camp Trans activists have advocated opening the Festival to all sexes and genders.

What is the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival? It is the largest and longest running womyn’s festival in the United States. Since the first Festival in 1976, tens of thousands of womyn from all corners of the world have made the pilgrimage to this square mile of land in Northern Michigan. The essence of the Festival is that it is one week a year that is by, for and about the glorious diversity of womyn-born womyn and we continue to stand by our labor of love to create this space. Our focus has not changed in the 31 years of our celebration and it remains fixed on the goal of providing a celebratory space for a shared womyn-born-womyn experience.
 
 
Our Lady Has Left the Building
10:23 / 23.08.06
Supporting womyn-born womyn space is no more inherently transphobic than supporting womyn of color space is racist.

Huh? If you're excluding transwomen but letting 'womyn' in then that is transphobic behaviour. There is no way it can't be!
 
 
elene
12:08 / 23.08.06
Yes, it's a mistake to use the word transphobic there, because it's not directly the trans nature of women that the organisers of the Michigan festival object to, but rather the fact that we were once men. They should in fact have said that it's not sexist. Of course indirectly they do object to our trans nature, but it's men, in the sense of patriarchy, they are resisting.
 
 
ONLY NICE THINGS
12:31 / 23.08.06
But seriously, folks. You know what the best way to generate "healing" is, as a prelude to standing "shoulder to shoulder"? Saying that the other party is spreading "misinformation". That usually heals like a bastard.

So, as far as I can tell the policy is that transwomen will not be turned away at the gates - unless the gate authorities decide that they are likely to be "disruptive", e.g. by showering - but are requested, if they do buy tickets, to honour the identity of womyn-born-womyn by not actually entering the Land? I'm a bit confused, I think.
 
 
Ticker
20:38 / 23.08.06
you know, I'd shut about it if they renamed the event:

Michigan Womyn-born Womyn’s Music Festival

and stopped calling it inclusive to all women.

Supporting womyn-born womyn space is no more inherently transphobic than supporting womyn of color space is racist.

..unless a women of color space claimed to include all colored women, except you know *those* ones over there.

Yes, it's a mistake to use the word transphobic there, because it's not directly the trans nature of women that the organisers of the Michigan festival object to, but rather the fact that we were once men. They should in fact have said that it's not sexist. Of course indirectly they do object to our trans nature, but it's men, in the sense of patriarchy, they are resisting.

I suspect this is what is pissing me off about the organizers' POV... its the assumption that transgender women ever even had access to being men or male privilage in any way. I think we covered this a while back but they have embraced drag kings and other folk who have 'passed' so calling the line use of male privilage rings of bullshit to me. Especially as they have no idea what someone's personal experience has been.
 
 
*
05:08 / 24.08.06
My cynical inner demon is saying that it's good that CT got their press release out first. MWMF just look petulant and spiteful to me.

Oh well, it was nice to think there'd be actual movement forward, for awhile.
 
 
elene
09:24 / 24.08.06
Well, I'd like to think that the purpose of not usually deciding whether the rule applies to any particular visitor is to let each of us decide whether we enjoyed substantial male privilege for ourselves, xk. I know I did and therefore I'd respect the policy. Had I transitioned as a teenager, I'm sure I wouldn't regard it as applying to me.
 
 
Pingle!Pop
11:48 / 24.08.06
But, "Have you enjoyed substantial male privilege?" isn't actually the question they're asking; it's, "Have you, at any point in your life, possessed male genitalia?" And both of these are, basically, really arbitrary distinctions; I can't conceive of any way to consistently apply either, which makes it seem pretty clear to me that the actual intention is, "Look, we don't like you tranny freaks, so just get lost, okay?" If male privilege is the question, as has been pointed out, there are plenty of womyn they're happy to admit to the festival that may have partaken of plenty of it, while if the latter's the question, it ignores huge grey areas, such as those born intersex or ambiguously sexed.

On the "Supporting womyn-born womyn space is no more inherently transphobic than supporting womyn of color space is racist" thing, my problem with the statement is in the exclusion based on power relations, rather than the dishonesty of their statement; after all, if you look closely, the small-print does say "... except you know *those* ones over there". Rather, I'm bothered by the fact that they include womyn who are privileged in a particular way, but not those wo lack that privilege, which runs counter to what I see to be the whole point of safe spaces. So the correct analogy to me would be less "supporting womyn of color space" than "supporting womyn of no colour here please space".
 
 
elene
13:01 / 24.08.06
Well, pingle, this has been going on since the early '70s and it basically started with the notion that male- and femaleness are intrinsic qualities, "once a man one is always a man," and that mtf transsexuals are therefore "mutilated men" rather than women. Born-womon is an attempt to exclude men, which is seen as being inherently just. Lisa Vogel is from that '70s generation of feminists and this whole business is therefore an attempt on our part to change the opinions of people who were initially convinced that an mtf transsexual is a masquerading male, and many still are.

Now, things have changed during the past 30 years - mostly during the last 10 though - and a lot more people know real transsexuals nowadays than did so back then. More people are familiar with the subject and with intersexed people too, all of which makes the notion that sex is binary and immutable far less obvious. Nevertheless, feminists who are ready to accept that perhaps someone who lives life as a woman really is a woman point out that, while the transwoman is treated like any other woman today she spent a time being treated like a man before that. Men are treated better than women - that's what feminism is all about and if it's not obvious to you (it is to me) you'd better just accept it in this context. So, they argue, the fact that one was a boy and a man remain relevant.

Now, it's obvious to me that some of people up in arms about this issue on the feminist side are deeply bigoted, and some are really hurtful people. I've talked with them. On the other hand, the outrage I've heard from many on the trans side of the dispute is simplistic, and the intent to insist on entry is just what those feminist would expect of a man (along with displaying male genitals in the communal shower). I do support camp trans though.

I may myself be unduly biased to the feminist side, as this is the strand of feminism I grew up with too, but all I hope for is more understanding on both sides. Certainly not that one side is ever going to admit they were wrong, because its perfectly obvious to me that this is not that kind of issue.
 
 
Regrettable Juvenilia
13:21 / 24.08.06
I'd like to know more information about the incident which is being described here:

In 1999, Camp Trans protesters caused extensive disruption of the Festival, in which a male from Camp Trans publicly displayed male genitals in a common shower area

Specifically, who is being talked about, and how they identified at the time, and whether MWMF are in fact just rubbing the fact that they basically just don't accept that anyone can change gender or sex in transpeople's faces, even as they call for "healing"...
 
 
ONLY NICE THINGS
13:53 / 24.08.06
Well, also what the connection between these two events it. It makes it sounds as if, as part of a planned invasion of the festival by occupants of Camp Trans, a transperson with unaltered bit got them out in a communal shower area and waved them at people. Is this the case?
 
 
Pingle!Pop
14:02 / 24.08.06
Men are treated better than women - that's what feminism is all about and if it's not obvious to you (it is to me) you'd better just accept it in this context. So, they argue, the fact that one was a boy and a man remain relevant.

The reasons for feminism are indeed obvious to me and hit me in the face constantly, but I honestly do not see trans exclusion as a legitimately feminist position, and believe that it cannot be applied consistently. In their explanations, they claim that having partaken of male privilege is what a refusal of entry is predicated upon, but this has been debunked multiple times above: it is perfectly possible that some of those who Vogel is perfectly happy to let in (and rightly, of course), may have not only partaken of male privilege, but may even have partaken of significantly more male privilege than some of their trans counterparts. So, I really can't see how the "no male privilege, ever!" line could possibly be anything but thinly-veiled transphobia.
 
 
elene
14:11 / 24.08.06
Good point Flyboy. According to Miranda Stevens-Miller,

... As it turns out, a group of transgender folks did eventually purchase tickets and enter the land. Transexual Menace T-shirt were visible everywhere. Hostility was high, and Riki admitted in an interview that she felt threatened, and was grateful for the support and protection of the Lesbian Avengers.

Then rumors started flying. "Men" on the land were going about showing their genitals. This started the "no penises on the land" mantra, and led to the voluntary expulsion of the one pre-op MtF and the one FtM. It turns out that the rumor started when the FtM requested to take a shower, asked and received permission from those there, and then (heavens) actually took a shower.


which is a relief.

Yes, it sounds like an invasion, Haus, even in this version.
 
 
Goodness Gracious Meme
14:52 / 24.08.06
Oh crap. Sorry, should have checked that one, excitement (and incredulity) ran away with me.
 
 
Ex
17:34 / 24.08.06
By Wilchins account, she was invited in by workshop organisers to speak in the camp. She suggested that she would feel threatened (before she even went in) and they offered a bodyguard of SM dykes (which rocks so hard I had to mention it). I'll check my sources later today. I'd be interested in other Camp Trans related activity - I only know they hand out information, run workshops and are available for discussion, so would like to know if they've had other activities.

I'm sceptical about the penis-waving story, because I've heard different versions of it, and the identification and motives of the bather, varying according to the point the speaker wanted to make. I'd like to get a definitive account, but I'm not sure how one would unless the individual came forward (and how would one verify them?)

the outrage I've heard from many on the trans side of the dispute is simplistic

Whereas the discussion I've seen of the issue by trans writers and speakers has been quite nuanced.

and the intent to insist on entry is just what those feminist would expect of a man

(I don't know if you're arguing for this, or just representing it - apologies if you're just reporting and feel I've randomly ranted at you, it's helped me clarify some thoughts).

Masculinity has always been a double-bind for feminism. Women trying to empower themselves have consistently been told that they are behaving like men, losing their femininity and being lesbians, in attempts to scare them away from places where they believed they had a role. I think it's therefore doubly ironic that transwomen's activism is supposed somehow to make them less like women. Activism is what feminists do.

This is complicated a bit by the cultural feminist angle that has informed events such as Michigan, that women (should/do) pursue less competitive, more consensus-based living. But if you use this not as a consistent philosophy (and I haven't seen it advanced anywhere) it just becomes a strategy to let people know that any attempts they make to improve their situation will actually make it worse.
 
 
Ex
17:49 / 24.08.06
Sorry, the above may sound as though I'm saying 'anything someone who identifies as a feminist does, even if it's bizarre and misogynist, counts as activism'. My perspective is obviously colouring my judgement of legitimate activism, and I'm basing it on a couple of things. Firstly, I'm in support of transwomen getting into events named as 'women only'; I have issue with identity politics, but I think I hashed that over upthread. (I'll go into more detail as to why I think transwomen should be included, if necessary, but I really feel a bit queasy about the idea of hashing it over again because it's been a rather difficult discussion topic for me in the past.)

Secondly, I also see Camp Trans as a mainly respectful and informative presence. Gender and queer activism have been full of showy, intrusive acts - hexing the New York bridal fair, picketting Miss World, mass die-ins - and as far as I know, Camp Trans hasn't done anythign much on those lines.

I therefore have no problem seeing them under the umbrella of feminist activism, and think it's unfair to suggest that their intentions place them beyond the scope of women's behaviour.
 
  

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