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Article on trans inclusion in Michfest–and I’m in it

Date: May 30, 2007

The latest issue of LOUDmouth magazine, published by the Women’s Resource Center of California State University, Los Angeles, contains an article by Daniel Bede Dumont about the exclusion of trans women at Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. The magazine is available for free online and offline, so go download and read up. And I’m not saying only because the article quotes my paper, “Whose Feminism is it Anyway? The Unspoken Racism of the Trans Inclusion Debate” (see readings section):

Clearly for the organizers of the MWMF, the festival is a safe space for female-born people, and transgender women are so different and threatening that they cannot enjoy this safe women’s space without making others feel unsafe. But what exactly is the threat? Emi Koyama gives acute insight into this issue in an article called Whose Feminism is it Anyway? The Unspoken Racism of the Trans Inclusion Debate:

“… To argue that transsexual women should not enter the Land because their experiences are different would have to assume that all other women’s experiences are the same, and this is a racist assumption. Even the argument that transsexual women have experienced some degree of male privilege should not bar them from our communities once we realize that not all women are equally privileged or oppressed. To suggest that the safety of the Land would be compromised overlooks, perhaps intentionally, ways in which women can act out violence and discrimination against each other.”

Transwomen do have different experiences and a certain complicated experience of gender privilege. Transwomen are likely to have avoided the early experiences of female-born women that often include messages about our female bodies being disgusting, dirty and weak. Transwomen are likely to have been taught as children to be assertive, entitled leaders, to speak loudly and take up space, an opposite message from the subordinance that female-born girls are taught, and one that can imbue useful lifeskills. Female-born people have our own experiences, and deserve separate space as much as any group.

However, full-blown exclusion is not the only option. Are these differences truly so significant that all transwomen need to be excluded from the entire 650 acres for all seven days in order for the space to remain “safe”? Vogel stated, “supporting womyn-born womyn space is no more inherently transphobic than supporting womyn-of-color space is racist.” However, she did not state a reason why we cannot “support womyn-born-womyn space” by setting up space within the festival similar to that of the Women of Color tent. What, besides transphobia, makes these privileges/differences more threatening than the many others among women?

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