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Michigan Again

confronting the myth of safety in women-only spaces

Forum: tgpoc list
Date: 12/20/2001

Hi Martina,

First of all, thanks for sharing your story.

On 01.12.20 6:00 PM, "lavoz" wrote:

In 1998 I attended Sistah Summerfest not knowing about their policy against trans women
So I signed the papers and went about my weekend as a non "T" person. However, it really angered me that I was attending a so called spiritual event and had to remain invisible.

Mmmm, I'm sorry that you had to go through that.
I'm so annoyed by some people (both trans and non-trans) who insist that Michigan's (and apparently Sistah Summerfest's) policy against trans women is okay harmless it's practically unenforceable as long as the trans woman keeps her mouth shut.

It's a classic case of the oppressed oppressing another group who is even more oppressed themselves. The mentality is more like it's okay so as long as I'm not the one at the bottom.

It's a classic case of how colonized mind works. There is a constant pressure within the lesbian community directed at women of color to prioritize "women's" unity and the struggle against sexism over all others (such as cultural unity or anti-racism). People who are running women of color events within lesbian-feminist communities are already walking a tight rope by giving race some consideration, and thus have to prove to white women that they are still keeping sexism as the top of their priorities by being extra cautious about not challenging the white lesbian-feminism in any other way.

While I love and respect Nomy, who originated this petition, I feel that the statement did not adequately critique the underlying assumptions behind this white lesbian-feminism that resulted in the anti-trans policies at Michigan Womyn's Music Festival.

For example, the petition states "We do not consider trans-women a threat to our safety or identity" - but that's not the point at all - what we need to be protesting is not just the trans women's categorical designation as "dangerous," but the white lesbian- feminist myth that women-only spaces are inherently safe. This myth is not only flawed, but it serves to privilege certain groups of women over others by making invisible the oppressive systems affecting lesbian communities (e.g. white women's racism against women of color) as well as domestic and sexual abuse perpetuated by some women against others. Saying that trans women should be included because they pose no threat to the safety of other women *protects* this white lesbian-feminist fantasy, and thus protects racism.

Instead of saying that trans women are not threatening to other women's safety, we should acknowledge that women, trans or non- trans, can and do inflict violence against others, and demand structural remedies that will protect all women from violence and oppression while on the land, so that the question of trans women's supposed threat becomes irrelevant to the discussion of trans inclusion. (For more on this, see my article, "Whose feminism is it anyway?" at )

Emi K.

-- * Putting the Emi back in Feminism since 1975.