advocate.com is reporting on a controversy surrounding the Michfest Womym’s Music Festival regarding the festivals policy of allowing only women born women to attend:
On August 6, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival will take place, with roughly 3,000 women in attendance, as it has for the past 38 years in the remote woodlands of Michigan. It began with a simple, yet radical idea: an annual gathering where women alone could congregate from around the world, pitch tents, and enjoy music. Yet its bedrock separatist credo of being an event to create safe space solely for “women born women” has increasingly come under fire as discriminatory, and even transphobic.
The conflict reached a boiling point in April, when writer and comic Red Durkin, a lesbian trans woman, launched a Change.org petition calling on performers to boycott the festival until
its organizers would “explicitly welcome all self-identified women.” The petition now has more than 2,000 signatures.
Lisa Vogel, 57, a founder of the festival and its artistic director, is no stranger to controversy. “In my 38 years of being involved with this festival, there have been a fair number of junctures where the festival has come under fire,” Vogel says. “In the beginning it was because it was a women-only event. It was construed as anti-male.”
Vogel released her own statement on the heels of Durkin’s petition, essentially reiterating the women-born-women position. “I respect the politics of separate space,” she says. “What I am trying to address in my statement is that if you are born female, deemed female at birth, raised as a girl, experienced the rigid enforcement of gender hierarchy from the time that you are a baby, you have a certain shared group experience that is different from someone who was born, deemed male, and raised as a boy.”
The irony of Vogel’s statement is that transgender women have experienced that “rigid enforcement of gender.” Her statement really belittles the transgender experience.
Because of our societal expectations of male and female, those who feel they are born into the incorrect sex experience a double layer of gender politics: societies hierarchy as well as their own internal psychological and emotional struggle to come to terms with and embrace their transgender status. Vogel’s statement makes it sound too much like being transgender is just switching sexes with no psychological or emotional impact.