• Enter search term(s):

Stop Legitimatizing Exclusions

criticisms as a way to block legitimacy

Forum: Students for Genital Integrity list
Date: 06/01/2004

On 6/1/04 5:21 PM, "Anya Hill" wrote:

This year i have the opportunity to attend the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival (, a super huge feminist retreat-type gathering (and, yes, i do have issues with their "womyn-born-womyn only" policy) But apparently anyone can hold a workshop on anything they'd like, or so i've been told. I've gotta look into the details and see if this is possible for me to do, but i really would love to hold a Genital Integrity workshop focusing in infant male genital mutilation. So, does anyone have any suggestions or are any females attending this event?


"Justice too long delayed is justice denied." - -Martin Luther King Jr.


It's nice that you "do have issues with" the festival's discriminatory policy against transsexual women, but why are you suggesting that you (we) take part in supporting the discrimination?

Let's say that you did a workshop about circumcision at the festival--how would you think if all the participants (including doctors and nurses) simply said "yes, I do have issues with circumcision" but went ahead and continued to participate in it anyway?

If you insist that participating in a discriminatory festival is acceptable, I suggest, at very least, that you remove the Dr. King's quote about justice from your email signature.

Emi K.

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

Date: 06/02/2004

On 6/2/04 12:59 PM, "Anya Hill" wrote:

I was very hurt by the way you presented that email, emi. i dont think we should be nasty to each other.

So you are hurt--big deal. Trans people are not just emotionally hurt by anti-trans sentiments, but they are *actually* disadvantaged and wounded by anti-trans discrimination and violence. I didn't mean to be "nasty" toward you, but I don't think that being nasty is worse than actively participating in discrimination.

You see, some women think excluding transsexual women is a great idea, and so they take part in the festival. I strongly disagree with their position, but at least it makes sense why they do what they do. I think it's hypocritical to state "I have issues with the policy" and then still participate in the festival.

We are not talking about small issues here; we are talking about blatantly discriminatory policy against an entire subgroup of women in a supposedly "feminist" festival (which, I might clarify, is not a private party as many naively believe, but a business enterprise that is legally considered as public accommodation like theatres and restaurants).

But the truth of the matter is i feel a certain duty to reach ALL audiences regarding this issue.

And you don't feel any sense of duty to support transsexual women who have been excluded from this very festival and have been doing outreaches and protests for many years? Perhaps you don't. Even then, don't you *at least* feel that you shouldn't be stepping on their toes as they continue to outreach and protest?

I was told the trans camp isnt that far from mich fest, i would love to go there and give a presentation some day soon.

I suggest that you go there and attend a workshop or two. You won't be giving any presentation at the Camp Trans, which is held as a protest against the discriminatory policy of the Michfest, as long as you are justifying your participation at the very festival that discriminates against them.

this year i dont have the funds to go to the trans camp.

Camp Trans is a protest. It doesn't cost anything to participate. Of course they can't guarantee food for you while you stay there (unlike the festival, which provides meals--although I understand that some food is donated or purchased by the organizers and people tend to share), but there aren't any other expenses once you are already there. And it's across from the main gate of the Michfest, so you won't need to re-arrange any transportation.

Just so you know: Trans activists and allies want festival attendees to walk over to Camp Trans to attend workshops or to chat about the issue, but that's not thir goal. They want you to stop supporting the institution that discriminates against them, as long as the discriminatory policy continues.

Some festival attendees seem to think that their participation in the festival would become okay as long as they also attend Camp Trans and superficially express support for trans inclusion, as if that would indemnify them from charges of supporting discrimination. That is missing the point entirely. Yes, they want to talk to you, but talking to you is not the end-point; getting you to join their struggle is.

By the way, I was not being nasty when I asked you to remove the MLK quote from your email signature. It really offends me that someone would quote him in the same email that justifies supporting an institution that publicly and proudly discriminates, as if stating "I have issues with it" somehow makes everything okay.

(Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Camp Trans and have never even attended it, so obviously I'm not speaking for them. It's far from where I live and my disability makes camping very difficult.)

Emi K.

Date: 06/03/2004

On 6/2/04 10:58 PM, "Anya Hill" wrote:

Big Deal? yeah, so if it's not a big deal to hurt an individual than why is it a big deal to hurt a group of individuals?

I'm not your therapist, and this is not a support group. When you make a statement on a political issue, your statement can be criticized if others find it offensive, oppressive, or hypocritical. I can't possibly be responsible for how you feel just because I criticized your comment that needed to be criticized. It's not my responsibility to take care of your emotional needs.

It is however my responsibility to confront and resist discrimination against trans people, as well as toward other marginalized groups. When feminists talk about discrimination and oppression, they are dealing with social and economic structures that shape our experiences and *not* somenoe's hurt feelings, individually or collectively. That you even think that they are somehow equivalent ("why is one not a big deal and the other is?") is truly astonishing.

but part of me feels that if a group of men or Chinese or any certain group, wants to have a week to themselves, let em have it. again i do not know were i stand on this issue.

That's only if it were a private club (not public accommodation). For example, a group of white people are free to meet among themselves privately at a camp site--but they cannot operate a restaurant or theatre that is "white only." If you "do not know where [you] stand" on something that simple, I really hope that you would remove the MLK quote from your signature. It's a disgrace to his legacy.

Unlike Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, Augusta National Golf Club is a membership-based private club, which is legally entitled to exclude whoever it wants. But that did not stop feminists (joined by Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition) from waging a campaign against it--because as feminists what we are interested in is whether or not something is fair and just, not just merely legally tolerated.

As part of the campaign against Augusta's anti-women policy, feminists sought corporate sponsors, media and even Club members to stop legitimatizing the Club. They sought PGA Tour to stop sanctioning Masters Golf Tournament; Masters to relocate to another club; and corporate executive to cancel membership at Augusta. Under law, we can't deny private clubs' right to exclude whoever they choose; however, others do not have to regard the Club with legitimacy and respect while it continues to exclude women.

The truly important question here is *not* whether or not Michfest has the legal right to exclude certain women. It is whether we should legitimatize the exclusionary festival by performing, presenting, volunteering, vendering, financially supporting, and participating in it.

We are not talking about whether or not some hypothetical group of people get to have a week to themselves. We are talking about your suggestion to present a workshop at the festival, which would add value to the festival and therefore legitimatizes its exclusion of transsexual women. If you are planning to do this, you are less ethical than a slew of corporate sponsors who responded to feminists' call to stop advertizing their products during the live broadcast of the Masters (CBS lost all sponsors, so they aired it without ads, making CBS the sole sponsor for the broadcast).

By the way, after hearing that Jesse Jackson was joining feminists in protesting Augusta, the local chapter of Ku Klax Klan showed up to counter-protest Jesse Jackson and in support of the Golf Club. Do you see why I find it extremely offensive to see Dr. King's quote attached to your email? If you aren't going to help end the discrimination against trans people, at least don't help prolong it by giving the festival legitimacy that it doesn't deserve.

you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

But you are not a fly. And if you were, you wouldn't be giving a tip on how to catch you more efficiently.

Besides, what made you think that you are so important that I'm trying to win you over (which, I assume, is what you meant by "catch more flies")? I'd be happy if you come to agree with me, but that's not why I'm responding to you.

I'm responding for the same reason feminists protest Augusta: to stop lending legitimacy to your statements. That's also why I appear unconcerned about your hurt feelings: I don't want to give legitimacy to your sense of entitlement to be free from criticisms that hurt your feelings. If you feel, however, that any of my criticisms are misguided or unwarranted, I'd be willing to revisit and discuss that.

Emi K.

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

Date: 06/03/2004

On 6/3/04 1:13 AM, "Ralesk Ne'vennoyx" wrote:

As far as I can tell, she really didn't want to focus on this issue at all, but you came and told her off -- and to tell the truth, this isn't the first time I've caught you having no tact -- for wanting to "support" the festival, and effectively accused her of supporting the discrimination. I am clearly aware that, yes, this is the effect of appearing at Michfest.

Intent is important when we are talking about personal ethics. But when we are dealing with social issues, intent is less important than effect, for which individuals are ultimately held accountable.

An example: doctors who circumcise boys and perform "normalizing" surgeries on intersex children *are*, for the most part, doing what they believe is the right thing. But their supposedly good intent does not remove their responsibility for the consequence. Politically speaking, we cannot allow intent to be used as a substitute for accountability.

On 6/3/04 7:15 AM, "Theron Gibbons" wrote:

The potential I see is for Anya not only to attend this happy little convention, but to become an active card carrying member of the organization, and then work with Emi over the course of months and years to either convince the council, leaders, whatever, to change their rules, or step into a leadershp position where influence can be pushed in subtly from the top.

First, the festival is a privately held corporate enterprise operated by the owner and her close friends. There is no membership, and there is no democratic process.

Second, trans activists have been pushing the owner of the festival for over ten years, and things have not changed--because the exclusion is based on a rigid ideology that is fundamental to the identity of the festival. Many women have stated that the festival will be completely different if trans women were allowed in and that they would avoid the festival.

Third, dozens of performers and hundreds of participants have said that they are "working from inside," but most never did anything to challenge it. For example, many performers have pledged to speak out against the policy from the stage, but very few actually did, and when they did it's just for few seconds. It would be different, for example, if the performer stopped the show halfway, saying "I can't continue to do this, because the festival excludes some women," and then packed up and left--now, *that* would get people talking. Has any "working from inside" folks done anything as radical? Not at all. Trans people are rightefully suspicious that "working from inside" means "I think it's wrong, but I don't care enough to do anything." I'd rather wish they would stop pretending to care at all.

Lastly, shouldn't we be respecting the leadership of trans people themselves to determine strategies for how best to fight their exclusion? Why do some women insist that they know better than trans people?

We might not be able to stop organizations such as Augusta National Gold Club and Boy Scouts of America from discriminating women and gays. But we can take away their legitimacy by asking sponsors to pull out from Masters or public schools to not allow Boy Scouts recruitment. We can take away the legitimacy of Michigan Womyn's Music Festival by not viewing it as a legitimate forum for discussing social justice.

On 6/3/04 3:36 PM, "Richard Russell" wrote: Many intactivists go to the annual meetings of medical groups to educate those who are there. Should we stay away because those groups have not effectively opposed the routine mutilation of infant and child boys in the United States

No, but if I were a doctor and the medical group excluded a whole group of doctors for their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc., then I would not legitimatize such conference by attending or presenting in it.

Your example is a flawed analogy. When activists go to these conferences, they go there to protest and to challenge their position (or lack thereof), not just to hang out and enjoy the lectures. That is equivalent to going to Camp Trans. And as far as I know, the only reason Anya isn't planning to go to Camp Trans is because she doesn't have the money (but Camp Trans doesn't cost any money), so I assume that she will be there this year. If she has to, for financial reasons, get in the festival just to find the food and then come back to Camp Trans.

PS: I do not understand and do not support the attitude of those feminists who refuse to accept trans persons.

I do not support it either, but I understand it. They believe that people who have been raised as girls--those who are "female classed" to use their term--have unique sets of experiences that are fundamentally different from those who didn't. So, at least publicly they are not saying that biology determines who you are; it's the social assignment of gender that does, according to their ideology.

My criticism toward this position is that there are many other important difference within the group of "women," like race, class, nationality, ability, etc., and that being transsexual is one of many such variations of "women's experiences." Non- transsexual women as a group do not share any more "unique set of experiences" than other sub-groupings of women, such as "white women," "women born in the U.S.," etc., and as such cannot be used as a basis for excluding transsexual women from a women's event.

In other words, supporters of the exclusion believe that the difference between non-transsexual women and transsexual women are fundamental; I'm not disputing that trans women's experiences are *different*, but I am questioning that this difference is more *fundamental* than other differences. While I am highly critical of the exclusion, I think it's false to accuse the supporters of the exclusion as biological determinists.

I hope that clarifies what the controversy is about.

Emi K.

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

Date: 06/03/2004

On 6/3/04 9:13 PM, "Richard Russell" wrote:

You are not a doctor, and you have done nothing to contribute to educating doctors about genital mutilation, as far as I know.

Funny, I just gave a lecture last week at Oregon Health & Science University (the nation's #2 medical school for primary care, according to the U.S. News & World Report's "America's Best Graduate School 2005" ranking) last week.

Besides, I'm responsible for almost all of and a large portion of (I was a staffer for Intersex Society of North America, and authored much of its unattributed contents on the web), which many medical professionals and students read.

I suppose it is your right to choose boycott over effective means of protest, but others of us are interested in getting out and getting some changes made.

I support protest. Camp Trans protests the exclusion of transsexual women from the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, and I have no problem with that, or with anti-circumcision activists protesting at medical conferences. I'd even support "changing from inside" if they *really* do something that has an impact--although most people who claim to "change Michfest's policy from inside" are not doing anything to actually challenge it.

The question here is whether or not educating about circumcision is *so* important that we should overlook all other considerations and consequences of our actions. As an activist, I disagree with such approach because it would make it impossible to build alliances between various movements. I do not believe that ends--or goals-- justify the means.

Your example is a flawed analogy.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, we hear you loud and clear Emi. You are always right and everyone else is always wrong or flawed.

Well see if you can get this significant little fact through your mean, poisoned mind.

Listen, if you think I'm wrong and your analogy is sound, then please rebuttle directly. Resorting to ad hominem attacks is not constructive.

THIS IS A LIST ABOUT GENITAL INTEGRITY. I don't give a big stinking pile of rat shit about the Trans and thier dispute with the Michigan Womyns Music festival or whatever it is.

Are you getting the point? THIS IS A LIST ABOUT GENITAL INTEGRITY. Let me say it one more time, just in case you missed it the first two: THIS IS A SITE ABOUT GENITAL INTEGRITY. And once more, THIS IS A SITE ABOUT GENITAL INTEGRITY.

Don't you think that choosing the right venue and approach to educate the public about genital integrity issues is important to the goal of our movements? By associating ourselves with groups such as Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, Augusta National Golf Club, and Boy Scouts of America and neglecting long-standing protests against them within progressive communities we will send a wrong message to the society about who we are and what we are about.

And by that, I'm not saying that we shouldn't associate with these entities in any way whatsoever. For example, if Augusta National Golf Club offered a $10,000 contribution to my organization, I'd say that we take the money: the benefit arising from the association (cash) is probably greater than the cost of potentially bad publicity (as I think I could easily explain why I took the money). But what if Ku Klax Klan offered it? I'd have to think about it, but chances are that I'd reject the money (or find a way to channel the money to civil rights groups that confront the KKK).

This is an important consideration for a political movement. For example, there are many criticisms within the movement against domestic violence over how receiving grants from the federal government has increased government influences on their organizations and skewed their principles (e.g. having to change shelter policy to monitor battered women's use of illegal drugs).

Among legal substances, shelters tend to be prohibitive about alcohol, but they almost always accommodate cigarette--and in the meantime Phillip Morris Foundation makes large donations to anti-violence programs. Most groups nonetheless chose to accept the money; some groups feel that it is more important to stick with their principles.

Your opinion about whether or not to present at Michfest may be different from mine, but it is extremely important that these various considerations are *discussed*, and not dismissed as irrelevant to the goal of our movements.

I have never heard of any problem the Trans community has had with being genitally mutilated as children.

Then you are not listening enough. I personally know several trans people who told me that they feel violated by the circumcision they received as infants--and I'm sure that there are other trans people who feel the same way who have just not told me that.

but you aren't helping that by behaving as though you are a troll here).

Hey, I'm not the one behaving like a troll. I didn't write "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, we hear you loud and clear" or "Well see if you can get this significant little fact through your mean, poisoned mind."

Are you for genital integrity or are you here to promote whatever other agenda you may be working on at various times?

If I weren't "for" genital integrity, I wouldn't be a full-time activist for that cause. However I am for genital integrity as part of broad range of social justice struggles that must be fought, and not as an isolated issue that is so important that all other considerations must be dismissed.

Let us review the policy statement of SGI, which runs this list, in case you forgot it: "In no aspect of SGI programs shall there be any difference in the treatment of persons because of race, national origin, color, creed, religion, sex, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or associational preference, or any other classification which would deprive the person of consideration as an individual. SGI guarantees that equal opportunity and equal access to membership, programming, facilities, and benefits shall be open to all persons. SGI welcomes all people to participate, who will stand firm against racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, ageism, and heterosexism."

Emi K.

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