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KALEIDOSCOPE, the First Annual National People of Color Cabaret

Date: August 28, 2007

(posting this for a friend… – ek)

CHICA BOOM presents
The First Annual National People of Color Cabaret

Saturday, September 1 st, 2007


Doors open at 8p and show starts at 9pm
Performers of Color On Show and Showing Off

Columbia City Theatre
4916 Rainer Ave S., Seattle

Reservation Line 206-412-9802

Tickets at the door $20 (cash) or go to:

Kaleidoscope kicks off the First Annual National People of Color Cabaret in Seattle! The first of its kind in Burlesque, this show centers vaudevillians, aerialists, and neo-burlesque performers of color who inspire, entertain, represent and transform burlesque as it was and is.

This wildly amazing show will be a blend of drag, burlesque, music, and aerial art. The wide range of performances will be erotic, hot, hilarious, and political. The performances will subvert racism, inject a race, gender, and sexuality analysis in burlesque, and celebrate people of color on show and showing off!

This historical show will be hosted by her most imperial sovereign majesty, ALEKSA MANILA. This year’s incredible lineup includes the Creole queen of burlesque, Desire D’Amour (Tucson); the brown sugar hurricane that is Tangerine Jones (NYC); an explosiva Dolores De Muela (L.A.); y la sinverguenza Eva Las Vegass (Venenzuela); and show founder and Ms. Gay Latina 2006 Chica Boom. The show will feature the best in color in the Northwest chocolate glamazon, Sydni Deveraux; sultry vixen, Shanghai Pearl; renowned shaker and mover, Ginger Snapz; aerialist innovator Thanhdat; and Portland’s burlesque sweetheart Sahara Dunes.


Zine World recommends “Disloyal to Feminism”

Date: August 11, 2007

The latest issue of Zine World: A Reader’s Guide to the Underground Press published a brief review of my booklet, “Disloyal to Feminism: Abuse of Survivors within the Domestic Violence Shelter System.” Here’s what it says:

Disloyal to Feminism: “Confronting the Abusive Power and Control within the Domestic Violence Industry.” Written by Emi Koyama of Portland’s Survivor Project, this booklet is about the “abuse of power and control within the feminist movement against domestic violence.” This essay is well thought out and well written and focuses on “the imbalance of power between workers who provide services and the survivors who receive them.” All feminists and especially workers in the domestic violence industry should read and think deeply about this article. Survivor Project, PO Box 40664, Portland OR 97240, [$? 23S :36] –Chantel

Get your copy of “Disloyal to Feminism” here.

A reply to a student who kept requesting an interview for a class project

Date: August 4, 2007

Hello ******,

I’m sure that you’d understand, but activists do not exist to help you do your homework. Every moment activists spend talking to you (including the time it takes to read your email, think how to respond, and write a response) is a moment that they could be doing something else, most likely something more worthwhile. If you wish to grab attention of activists to your project and have them help you do your homework, you need to make it worthwhile to them: what do activists gain from helping you, or how would it help the work they are doing?

And please don’t just say that your paper could educate your classmates, because it’s not enough that there is some benefit; for it to be worthwhile, the benefit of working with you must exceed that of whatever else activists would be doing if they were not talking to you.

Please also tell your professor (in fact, please forward this email to her or him) that academia must stop exploiting and derailing activists and activist movements. Any scholar or student researching about activist movements (and any community for that matter) need to build equitable relationships with those they study, rather than simply stealing knowledge and insights from them and publishing them for their own professional or academic career.


Emi Koyama

Mural of my image to appear in North Portland?

Date: July 24, 2007

It almost feels like a scam, but apparently it’s for real.

Dear Emi,

My name is ***** ***** and I am organizing a mural titled “Women Making History In Portland”. This project is being organized through In Other Words Women’s Books and Resources. I have asked various non-profits and community leaders to nominate women who they felt should be be featured in the mural in a way that depicts how they have worked to make change in Portland.

While I have been compiling a list of women since the beginning of this year it was not until today that I went to In Other Words and asked Sue Burns who she would like to nominate on behalf of In Other Words. When she mentioned your name I was so excited that I immediately got goose bumps. I have seen you speak at numerous open mics and have attended a lecture by you years ago. Since then I have heard many people bring you up in conversation in regards to the amazing work that you do. It would be my honor to include you in this mural project.

The project is set to start in the middle of August and be completed by the middle of October. It will be locate at the intersection of N Interstate Ave and N Harding St.

What do you think I should do?


Date: July 13, 2007

For the past week or so, I’ve been swimming almost every day at an athletic club. I love it. I started swimming because my friend/housemate Leslie is a member at the place, and invited me to come along as a guest. I borrowed her old swimsuit and jumped in, literally. I’m not a serious swimmer–in fact, I don’t think I swam for at least a decade–but it’s strangely fun. As many of you know, I have bad back and joints, which I thought would hurt a lot after swimming–but I actually feel quite well and energised afterwards each time.

Now I bought my own swimsuit and became an “extended family member” which is available for people who live under the same address (yup). I was lucky to be able to do that, because there is a two-month waiting list if I were to join on my own (plus, I probably wouldn’t have if Leslie wasn’t there). It’s a bit far from where I live (it takes between one and half to two hours by public transit), but the facility is really nice (it’s saline), compared to the city-owned pool. I feel extremely resentful about how money buys so much comfort in our society, and I can barely afford the $57/month membership charge, but it’s the first time in my adulthood to exercise regularly and I’ll try to maintain my membership as long as I can…

I’ve been sick a lot in the past five years or so (and when I’m not sick I’ve been fatigued), but I’m hoping that swimming would keep me healthy more of the time, and perhaps give me more energy so that I can start to go out again. Maybe if I keep up swimming at least three times a week for several months, I could get myself a water-proof iPod shuffle… (or, is there a sugar daddy? My birthday is coming up on August 24…).

Oh, one last thing–I plan to come to the next Chunky Dunk, a “size-friendly private swim for everyBODY.” I know it’d be crowded and locker room won’t be as nice, but it seems like a fun event and I’d like to see my friends… Come see me in my new swimsuit :-)

Hypocrisy of anti-trans “feminism” at National Women’s Studies Association

Date: July 4, 2007

(Continued from yesterday…) Another panel I attended at this year’s National Women’s Studies Association meeting in St. Charles, Illinois was on trans people’s relationship to the contentious boundaries of “women-only” space. As many readers would know, this is a topic I’ve written a lot in the past. The panel was organised by transwoman activist and Ph. D. student Joelle Ruby Ryan from Bowling Green State University, but included Eileen Bresnahan, director of feminist and gender studies at Colorado College, who has a history of making anti-transsexual statements (see here, here, and here for my past arguments with her).

I’ve actually visited Colorado College at the invitation of the Queer-Straight Alliance several years ago, and I was shocked to learn how Women’s Studies Department (headed by Bresnahan) and Queer-Straight Alliance were in an open war over the former’s refusal to honour preferred names and pronouns of trans students. Of course, I only heard Queer-Straight Alliance’s side of the story, so I’m sure that Bresnahan has her side… but nonetheless, the hostility between the two was obvious and astounding. So I was wondering what she was going to say, and how the panel would deal with it.

Bresnahan’s presentation was actually quite informative: I still find it offensive and transphobic, but it was surprisingly valuable, as she discussed why radical feminists reject transsexual women’s self-identification as women. I thought it was valuable, because too often trans activists and allies do not understand where radical feminists are coming from, and unfairly characterise their position as biological determinism.

Many (not all) radical feminists (and here, I’m not talking about feminists who are radical; I’m referring to those subscribe to a specific set of beliefs and assumptions that are the hallmarks of radical feminism) indeed reject trans women’s self-identification as women, but it is not because they view biology as destiny; rather, they challenge the notion of “true” gender identity, or the innate and core sense of being male or female, as deterministic. Radical feminists take for granted that the distinctions between male and female are socially constructed, and seek the liberation of the members of the constructed category of “women.”

Radical feminists believe that sex is socially constructed, and as such there are no such thing as “true” gender identity. To them, transsexual women are not really women because there isn’t such thing as a “real” woman beyond how one is socially categorised and raised in the patriarchal structures. While I don’t agree with much of their politics, I do think that the only logical justification for excluding transsexual women from “women-only” spaces is that they are not women. I actually have more respect for someone like Bresnahan who take this logically stellar position than those who accept transsexual women as women but still manage to find excuses to exclude them from “women-only” spaces.

Joelle Ruby Ryan spoke about the debate between the campus women’s group that hold “women-only” Take Back the Night march and rally and the trans students’ group that criticised it for excluding trans men and genderqueers. Ryan stated that TBTN should create a feminist space rather than women-only space, while the organisers insist that it won’t be a “safe space” for women to speak out about sexual violence they’ve experienced if men were allowed to participate.

Ryan rightfully critiques this argument by pointing out how such “women-only” environment would be safe for women who have been harmed by their mothers or female partners, but contradicted herself when she praised the compromise reached between the two groups that would allow everyone to participate in the march, but the rally would remain women-only for allowing some level of participation for trans men and genderqueers while preserving safety for the women in the speak-out. But what happened to the concern for the women who have been harmed by other women? It appears that they were treated as means to advance trans and genderqueer people without regard to actually making the event safer for them.

Amy Barber of University of Wisconsin is writing her dissertation on the various controversies at Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, and her presentation came from a chapter that dealt with the festival’s “women-born women” policy. Barber criticised the policy specifically and deliberately designed to exclude transsexual people, and argued that it is problematic to exclude transsexual women for having different experiences or privileged position because women do not universally have the same experiences or same privileged or disadvantaged position. According to her, the boundaries of “women” is fundamentally ambiguous, and any clear boundary regardless of how it’s defined would be insufficient and problematic. So far so good, but she goes on to propose yet another clear boundary of her own, which is that “everyone who identifies as women should be able to enter.”

In the paper I wrote five years ago (“Whose Feminism is it Anyway? The Unspoken Racism of the Trans Inclusion Debate,” now part of The Transgender Studies Reader ed. by Stephen Whittle and Susan Stryker) I used the analogy of the U.S.-Mexico border to illustrate the arbitrariness and violence of drawing clear and unambiguous boundaries. Even though many people talk about “Mexican immigrants” crossing the national boundaries to enter the U.S., but I feel that this whole discussion needs to be thrown upside down.

Chicano/as have been the native inhabitants of the entire southwest U.S. region as well as Mexico long before the national boundaries were drawn, and it was only after colonial invasions and wars that white people seized north of the Rio Grande. In other words, it is the border that crossed Mexicans, not the other way around. If the border has to be drawn there, I believe that native inhabitants of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands have the moral right to cross the border freely to be on either side of the border at any time with or without papers to prove visa or citizenship. But in reality, of course, hundreds of immigrants die from dehydration in the desert when they avoid heavily militarised parts of the border that are easier to cross, and are blamed for their own death because they were “illegally” crossing the border.

Trans people are also excluded, persecuted for not carrying appropriate documents, and blamed for their own death when they are murdered for crossing the naturalised and militarised boundaries between male and female. But I believe that it is not trans people who cross borders, but borders are crossing trans people’s flesh. As such, I argue that trans people have the moral right to cross the boundaries of sex categories and be on the either side at any time with or without medical diagnosis of “gender identity disorder” or hormonal and surgical treatments.

I do not negate the need for “women-only” space like Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. However, if they insist on drawing a boundary between male and female, I believe that trans people can decide for themselves which side they would be in at any given moment. Barber’s proposal is only a slight improvement over the current policy in that it excludes trans people and genderqueers whose identities are more complex than just “woman” without paying attention to the specificities of each individuals’ experiences and identities, and also functions to exclude people outside of the class and ethnic culture in which the concept of “gender identity” has currency (that one “identifies as a woman” is a notion specific to certain class/race segment).

During the Q&A, someone asked about the implication of this discussion in the context of National Women’s Studies Association. Eileen Bresnahan argued that some people in the lesbian caucus feel invisibilised and feel that there is a need for a “lesbian-only” space. I raised my hand and asked: let’s say that NWSA created a lesbian-only space, and which lesbians are allowed to participate in it? Is it only open to “lesbian-born lesbians” who have always been lesbian, or does it include someone who once had straight relationships and enjoyed heterosexual privilege and later became a lesbian? And if she is allowed to participate, would someone who once lived as a man and later became a lesbian?

If someone who once received heterosexual privilege can be included in a “lesbian-only” space, then there is no reason to exclude those who once received male privilege from a “women-only” space. “They are not parallel,” Bresnahan insisted, but the laughter broke out in the audience as they recognised the contradiction in between Bresnahan’s acceptance of lesbians who are not “lesbian-born lesbians” and her rejection of women who are not “women-born women.” I’m sure that trans people and allies in the audience enjoyed witnessing the public exposure of feminist rationale for anti-trans sentiment as hypocritical…

“Gender-free” and the conservative backlash against feminism in contemporary Japan

Date: July 3, 2007

This past weekend, I attended the annual meeting of National Women’s Studies Association at St. Charles, Illinois. In case you are wondering, St. Charles is a hellhole in the middle of nowhere. We were told that it was one hour from downtown Chicago, but it took well over an hour and half even though there weren’t any traffic congestion anywhere.

I only attended one day, Saturday May 30th, to present a panel about the backlash against feminism in Japan with Tomomi Yamaguchi (University of Chicago, will be at Montana State University this fall) and Masami Saito (University of Toyama, Japan), plus Norma Field (University of Chicago) as a discussant.

First, Yamaguchi-san spoke about the history of the term “gender-free,” which was first adapted by Tokyo Women’s Foundation in 1995 and quickly became widespread among state-subsidised feminist education projects until it became a focus of the well-orchestrated conservative bacaklash in around 2002. Those affiliated with Tokyo Women’s Foundation claimed that the term came from the article, “Should public education be gender-free?” by Barbara Houston, Professor of Education at University of New Hampshire, but Houston actually critiqued gender-free principle in education, calling instead for gender-sensitive approach that takes into account that the society in which students live is a male-dominated one, which affects boys and girls differently.

Japanese scholars, however, introduced the term as the “next step” for gender “co-participation” after legal and structural inequalities have already been eliminated, that “gender-free” would promote changes in people’s minds and attitudes. As Yamaguchi-san points out, it is no surprise that the well-meaning bureaucrats found this concept appealing: if legal and structural inequalities have already been resolved, then it’s no longer the responsibility for the government to make any changes; any existing inequalities could be blamed on people’s attitudes. Nonetheless, since 1995 many mainstream feminists, especially scholars working with bureaucracies, embraced the term.

One of the ways these “gender-free” feminists justified replacing older term, danjo byodo (literally translated “men-women equality”), was to suggest that “danjo byodo” could be interpreted to permit “different but equal” rhetoric. In other words, one could say that men and women are fundamentally different and therefore should have different, sex-segregated roles to play in the society and in families, but they should be respected as equals nonetheless. But Yamaguchi-san points out that grass-roots feminists have successfully used the term “danjo byodo” to counter such arguments in the past, and it is simply not true that “danjo byodo” was vulnerable to “different but equal” argument.

Then in around 2002, conservative media took notice of the proliferation of “gender-free,” and made it a central theme of their campaign to distort and discredit feminism. “Gender-free” position denies the existence of any difference between male and female, they argued. Many ridiculously false allegations were raised, such as “gender-free” would require boys and girls to change in the same locker, or those promoting “gender-free” education would abolish any and all traditional festivities specifically for boys or for girls. Further, all feminists were presumed to be in support of “gender-free,” despite some grass-roots activists had protested the top-down paradigm of “gender-free.”

In 2004, Yamaguchi-san wrote an article in a small feminist publication that exposed the fact that Tokyo Women’s Foundation’s use of the term “gender-free” was based on a careless misreading of Houston’s original paper. Many mainstream feminists reacted defensively, one even alleging that Yamaguchi-san “misunderstands” feminism, without offering any specific criticism. Even more disturbingly, a conservative newspaper owned by the Unification Church (Moonies) praised Yamaguchi-san for exposing the fallacy of “gender-free” ideology, distorting Houston’s call for “gender-sensitive” education as the recommendation that education must be respectful toward boys’ and girls’ innate biological differences (on the contrary, Houston was urging educators to be sensitive to boys’ and girls’ different life experiences under a male-dominated society).

Saito-san presented about the gender discrimination in school lunches in the city of Toyama, where she lives. Several years ago, it was brought to national attention that public schools in Toyama, for some bizarre reason, served differently sized portions of bread and rice for boys and girls: boys’ bread are made from 100 grams of wheat while girls’ are made from 70 grams; when rice is served, boys eat 120 grams, while girls are served 100 grams. The board of education of Toyama justified the practice as based on biological differences between boys and girls: boys need more calories than girls do, they insisted.

When parents and feminists criticized the practice as sexist, many conservative public officials defended it, arguing that “gender-free” doesn’t apply to this case, because differently sized portions are not about social biases or attitudes, but about bona fide biological differences. In the midst of the rampant backlash against “gender-free,” even those complains that had nothing to do with “gender-free” were thus dismissed as conservative public officials were convinced that anything feminists say or believe was about “gender-free.” Ironically, it was “gender-free,” not “danjo byodo,” that created a room to justify “different but equal” treatment of males and females.

My presentation was about the role Western “experts” played in the similarly convoluted discourse surrounding “gender-free,” in particular through John Colapinto’s book, “As Nature Made Him.” The book tells the story of David Reimer, or the “John/Joan” child, who was born male but lost his penis to a circumcision accident, and was raised as a girl under the direction of psychologist John Money. Money had believed that children were born without a fixed gender identity, and that any child could be raised to become a man or a woman as long as they are surgically and hormonally transformed into the designated sex, and receive consistent socialization as a member of that sex. He sought to prove his theory by following up on the child’s development, but he continued to report the success of his gender assignment experiment even after it became evident that the child did not conform to female gender assignment. Eventually, the child chose to go back to living as a man; Money reported that the case was lost to follow-up, even though the patient lived at the same address.

In 1997, reproductive biologist Milton Diamond investigated Money’s claim, and reported the facts of the case. Three years later, John Colapinto published the book “As Nature Made Him,” which for the first time described David Reimer’s life from his own perspective at length. The Japanese edition of the book was published in the same year through Mumeisha, which went out of business the next year and consequently the book quietly went out of print. But in 2004, conservatives began arguing that Money’s theory of gender neutrality at birth was the primary basis for “gender-free” ideology and hence the entire feminist movement, and its failure doomed feminism and “gender-free” education as fraud. They further hinted that there was a conspiracy of the feminist-leaning liberal media establishment behind the disappearance of “As Nature Made Him” from the marketplace.

The Moonies newspaper (Sekai Nippo) interviewed Milton Diamond in February 2004, in which the interviewer–I will not dignify him by calling him a reporter or journalist–asked Diamond for his opinion of Chizuko Ueno, a prominent Japanese feminist scholar, who continued to rely on Money’s “John/Joan” case to support her position in an article that was published in as late as 2002, two years after “As Nature Made Him” and five after Diamond’s initial report. Diamond of course criticized Ueno for intellectual dishonesty, or at least intellectual laziness.

The problem is that the article the interviewer was referring to was actually written in 1995, and it did not rely on the “John/Joan” case at all. It is actually a chronology of how the concept of gender has evolved in the latter half of the twentieth century, and while it does discuss Money’s formulation of gender (in today’s language, what Money dealt with would be more appropriately called “gender identity”), it did not even mention the existence of “John/Joan” case.

But the interview fueled an online petition seeking the return of “As Nature Made Him,” and in May the second edition of the book was introduced by Fusosha, which also publishes the notoriously revisionist history textbook that whitewashes Japan’s war crimes during the second world war. This edition included a 10-page introduction for the Japanese readers that was written by Hidetsugu Yagi, then-president of the revisionist Japan Association for History Textbook Reform. The group had earlier focused on removing references to “comfort women” and other colonial and wartime crimes of the imperial Japan, but had shifted its focus to “gender-free” after being unsuccessful at getting its textbooks adapted by schools and its membership began to shrink.

I was astonished to witness these developments, as I had known both Diamond and Colapinto, author of “As Nature Made Him,” to be individuals committed to promoting the greater acceptance of non-traditional gender identities and expressions. So I began to intervene through my Japanese blog as well as in print media. First, I called up Diamond and found out that he was commenting about Ueno based on the only thing he knew about her, which is what the interviewer told him, and did not intend to discredit her. He further stated that he supports “gender-free” ideas in education, such as merging gender-segregated roll of students or allowing children to play with toys that are not traditionally associated with their sex.

I also contacted Colapinto, who was shocked to hear how his message was being distorted by the publisher. He told me that he believed that readers are free to interpret his work in any way they choose, or as he put it, readers have the right to stupid interpretations. However, this case was different: the stupid interpretation was being packaged and sold as part of the book, as Yagi claim that the book completely contradicts decades of feminist movement and scholarship, and proves that the laws promoting gender equality must be abolished.

While this intervention was somewhat effective at changing the course of the national debates over “gender-free” ideas, I felt that it still did not challenge the authority of foreign, white male experts as somehow more credible than Japanese feminists. But who cares what Diamond or Colapinto think? They are not the experts about the gender relationship and hierarchy in Japan, the Japanese feminists are. I also feel that throughout the debate surrounding “gender-free,” we remained reactive rather than proactive, and we’ve somehow relinquished the power of agenda-setting to the conservatives. I concluded my presentation with these thoughts.

More from the NWSA2007 coming soon…

Top Ten Answers to “How Many Intersex Activists Does It Take to Change A Light Bulb?”

Date: June 22, 2007

On June 20, I took part in the book release party & performance for Thea Hillman’s new book, For Lack of a Better Word. I found out that I was to perform at the very end of the show, which made me nervous because my piece was iconoclastic if not anti-social… which might not be a very positive way to wrap up the celebration of Thea’s new book. So on the morning of June 20 before I headed for the airport I wrote a quick, uplifting piece, well a top ten list actually, titled “Top Ten Answers to ‘How Many Intersex Activists does it take to Change the Light Bulb?” Here’s the list:

10. We’re too busy. Why don’t you ask Jeffrey Eugenides and his pal Oprah to do it?

9. Let’s wait until the light bulb is old enough to consent.

8. One in 2,000.

7. You can help change the light bulb by making a tax-deductible donation of $75 or more to the Intersex Society of North America!

6. You should realize that light bulb placement is tentative, and we need to allow the light bulb to decide whether to be in or out.

5. It’s easier to dig a hole than to build a pole tall enough to reach the light bulb.

4. Exactly at which point do we define the light bulb to be in order or in need of replacement? Binary is insufficient to accurately describe the status of a light bulb.

3. Only one, as long as it’s David Cameron. [note: who is very tall–and was in the audience.]

2. Don’t change the light bulb–change our minds!

…and the number one answer to “how many intersex activists does it take to change a light bulb?” is…

1. Buy Thea Hillman’s new book, For Lack of a Better Word. You’ll know the answer after reading it!

Book Release Event for Thea Hillman’s “For Lack of a Better Word,” June 20 in SF, CA

Date: June 20, 2007

Hey folks, I apologize for the last-minute announcement, but this morning (Wednesday the 20th) I’m flying to San Francisco to take part in the book release party for Thea Hillman’s “For Lack of a Better Word” (hot off the press as of yesterday!). I’ll be reading a new piece too.

For Lack of a Better Word: Nearly Shameless Performances Reflecting Intersex Experiences and Shameless Promotion Book Release Party

Ever feel you can’t find a word to describe you, your body, or your experience of the world? Join the club. For Lack of a Better Word is a book about grappling with normal and coming out the other side. The book release event will feature spoken word and performances by Thea Hillman, as well as local and national luminaries Emi Koyama, Hida Viloria, Aidan Dunn, Eli, and Shar Rednour.

San Francisco LGBT Center, Ceremonial Room
June 20th – doors 7:30, show 8pm
$8-$15, no one turned away for lack of funds.

Please come!

Emi on women-only spaces and politics of safety in Bitch magazine

Date: June 14, 2007

The current issue of Bitch magazine has an interview with poet & activist Julia Serano about her new book, “Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity” (definitely recommended). Along with it there’s a side column in which Lisa Jervis compiles several people’s opinions about the women-only space, in which I’m quoted (see page 65). I love how they listed my occupation as “buttenmeister” as I’ve requested, but for space reason they had to edit down my comments two (long) paragraphs. Below, I present the complete response to Lisa’s questions, unmodified.


What’s your personal experience with women-only space? (Have you spent a lot of time in women-only spaces, organized such spaces, etc.? If so, what has drawn you to them and what do you see as the benefits and drawbacks?)

I haven’t spent that much time, but I have participated in events, meetings, and a couple of retreats that was specifically for women. There was a time in my life that seemed like a great place to be, not necessarily because it was women-only, but it was a space to be with the kind of women who needed and appreciated such space (in other words, the presence of Condy Rice or Laura Bush or probably even Hilary Clinton would ruin it for me). It was not about the fact that they were women, but are the kind of women with whom I needed to connect with at the time, that was important to me. But of course that’s getting into a dangerous territory, because there is nothing that says that Condy can’t come to such a space.

What’s your preferred definition of women-only space (e.g., woman-identified folks only, cisgender women only – only those who were born and socialized as female, anyone who currently or has ever identified as a woman)?

My preference is to not have a definition as a matter of principle: for most people, “women-only” would be sufficient to determine whether or not they should be part of it; and for those people where things are more complicated, no single set of criteria would do justice.

What part, if any, do you think women-only space plays or should play within feminism?

It’s a playground to see what is possible among women: I would especially like to see the space utilized to discuss racism, classism and other issues that exist among women and among feminists, because we often censor ourselves on these topics in the larger society out of fear that feminism would be perceived divided and weak.

Would you like to see a change in the admissions policies of high-profile women-only space such as the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival? What kind of change?

Oh, please keep the current policy so that we can continue to use it as an educational tool to address transphobia in women’s and feminist groups! ;-)

Seriously, as I wrote above, there shouldn’t be any policy beyond “women-only.” I’m sure that organizers of Michfest now realize that creating the policy was a mistake, because it has brought far more attention to the trans existence at the festival than there would have been if they simply quietly ignored/tolerated the extremely small transsexual women contingent.

A common thread in discussions of women-only space is that it is safe, or safe in comparison to mixed-gender space. What does the term “safe space” mean to you?

“Safe space” is often a place in which others’ safety is sacrificed to make it safe for you. The idea that safety is about removing people or things that threaten them is criminally immoral when our government invades and occupies other countries, detains residents of these countries and others associated with it (including U.S. residents) without due process, strips them naked and tortures them, in order to protect, supposedly, “our” “safety.”

Safety should not be about the absence of the perceived threat, the “other,” but about building structures that ensure fairness, accountability, and justice. If a women-only space is to be safe, it shouldn’t be assumed to be safe simply because it excludes men (and possibly trans people), but because we work toward building such structures.

Do you see women-only space as safe? Why or why not?

Usually not. In fact, it’s sometimes more dangerous for many women, including of course trans women.

Do you think there’s such a thing as safe space? If so, what are the qualities that make a space safe? If not, why not?

See above.

What effects, if any, have the rules/guidelines surrounding women-only space policies had on you and/or your community?

It’s hurt a lot of people on both sides, but especially trans people (I refuse to equate the pain of being discriminated against and the pain of being accused of discriminating others, although they are both painful.)

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