Eric Leven

Womyn Born Womyn

Filed By Eric Leven | August 10, 2008 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, The Movement, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, transgender, women

Right now my best friend and 1st cousin Randee Riot is at her all-time favorite event, The annual Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, otherwise known as Fest or Michfest. According to the Michigan's Womyn Festival Wikipedia page the festival was set up as:

...a response to misogyny, sexism and homophobia,[citation needed] MWMF was created in 1976 by 19-year-old Lisa Vogel, her sister Kristie, and Mary Kindig, the We Want the Music Collective. All three were working-class women from Michigan who had seen female musicians and stagehands demeaned and repeatedly harassed at festivals and venues run by men.

MWMF created (and continues to create) a feminist alternative, and a niche for lesbians in the music scene. It continues to create an annual place for living out lesbian feminist politics. Many queer women feel safe and "at home" at Michigan, with the result that lesbian-identified women are among the 3,000-10,000 women who attend each year.

Randee continually stresses the enjoyment of being surrounded by a space that is only filled with women. All women, all week. She often talks about the sense of undeniable "sisterhood" that develops throughout the week and how liberating it is to walk the land topless in a women-only society. In fact, it is one of the only places, if not the ONLY place where a woman can walk naked within a women-only environment.

However, the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival has been under criticism for a number of years due to the founder's "Womyn-born-womyn" policy.

Here's some background on that:

Since its inception, "the Michigan Festival...always has been an event for women, and this continues to be defined as womyn born womyn" (Lisa Vogel & Barbara Price). This policy has gained notoriety for the festival, as it officially requests that the attendees be "womyn-born-womyn" (WBW) only. That is, those who were born and raised as girls, and currently identify as women. MWMF is one of only a few women's festivals with a WBW policy.

In 1991 Nancy Burkholder, who had attended the festival the year before without incident, was expelled from MWMF when she disclosed her transsexual status to festival workers who, in turn, informed the festival office. Burkholder was asked to leave the festival and received a full refund of her ticket. Festival organizers continued to advocate their support of the women-born-women policy even as criticism from some segments of the queer community mounted in response to Burkholder's departure.

Supporters of the policy believe that the particularity of WBW experience (separate and apart from a woman's experience) comes from being born and raised in a female body, and see the festival as a celebration of that experience, under the oppression of patriarchy. Many attendees and workers remark on feelings of liberation they experienced while within the WBW-only environment of the festival: from a feeling of safety at being able to walk in the dark without fear, to a deep and sometimes virgin acceptance of their bodies. Supporters of the policy feel that the experience of being WBW in a place that honors the bodies, brains and brawn of WBW (regardless of how they "fit" into mainstream culture), and rescripts the limiting experiences available for women and girls, is vital to unlearning a lifetime of internalized misogyny for both attendees and festival volunteers.

The festival has stated that it does not and will not perform "panty checks." Rather, it states that women must "self-monitor", and attend only if they can honestly state that they were born as a girl, lived as a girl, and presently identify as a woman.

I support and respect the right for the founders to make any decision they choose regarding the womyn born womyn policy, since it is their event, but this debate has me asking, "How does one define Transgenderism?"

In my personal opinion, if one feels as though he or she has been born into the wrong body than that's enough to qualify as Trans, or the new, less technical term GenderQueer. Although The Womyn's Music Festival vows to not do any "panty checks" it seems as though the inclusion of Transpeople to a festival like this would have to be all or nothing. Being pre-op, half-op or even post-operation male-to-female transgender simply cannot matter. Who is to say that being pre or post op makes one more or less of a woman? You simply can't.

With ENDA in the news and Transpeople becoming a louder and more visible community it is important that we are compassionate to the perspective and struggle of transfolk. I've often heard straight people ask, "but I just don't understand the whole gay thing." To that I respond, "It's not for you to understand. You're not gay." I do, however, expect compassion and respect.

I remember at a community forum not too long ago a Transman standing up and saying, "We do our activism everyday by merely being who we are and walking within society. We need you people, the community, to walk alongside us."

Crossposted from KnuckleCrack

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This is timely. I was just blindsided by the following nugget on my blog:

"... what transgenders want is for men to be allowed in womens’ spaces transgenders were not raised with the you are subservient tripe they have not experienced childbirth or the body cycls with them they have not experienced rape molestation or predation they have not spent their lives fightng male privlige they are not women they never were women and they will never be women I don’t care what surgeries they’ve had"

There's a block of people who are simply not interested in considering possibilities beyond their own preconceptions.

Gee, I guess there is no record of trans people being rapped as children. No, never heard of that. Can't happen. It's not a problem with us.

NOT!!! What an idiot.

I have a Guest Post earlier about the causes of anger in the transgender community. This has been one of this long-term sources of anger. Personally, I wouldn't spent the time or the effort to go to that event. I have no desire to attend this particular event as long as those two women are still alive and running it. They don't deserve my money.

"Who is to say that being pre or post op makes one more or less of a woman? You simply can't."

Logic's not the point. It's about fear, and when you're trying to reason with people who do not want to admit their fear, logic won't work. Fear will always provoke them to find a new logic, and they've found the logic they want.

"Everybody born female Is In The Club, and everyone else isn't."

Doesn't the MWMF allow drag kings?

Don't they allow trans-men?

I remember Julia Serano mentioning that in Whipping Girl and/or in the essays available on her website.

I think if we dig deep enough, we'll find that it's mainly or only trans-women who are excluded and discriminated against.

I do know Le Tigre played there a while back....

Yes, they allow them.

However, it is still on the basis that they are *womyn-born-womyn*, which totally removes their identity as men.

That is, as far as those folks are concerned, transmen are still women.

As a matter of fact, Julia Serano recently wrote a really comprehensive piece at Alternet to delineate the history of feminist thought against that of transgender/queer thought, in light of the whole MWMF drama.

Highly recommend it, though I couldn't say the same about the comments :(

In it, Serano also claims that "the "womyn-born-womyn"-only policy remains in effect to this day, MWMF stopped formally expelling trans women from the festival in 2006 (although they still insist that any trans woman who attends is "choosing to disrespect the stated intention of this festival")." Baby steps?

Transmen actually don't qualify in the FIRST part of the WBW -- but I have yet to see a woman born a woman. Most are born as babies and then become infants, children, adolescents, etc. before becoming women, from what I observe.

Michigan is transpohbic. I know this varies by age, class, geography and much else, but I can speak for myself. I'm a transman. I respect women's space and don't wish to enter it.

Michigan, by not welcoming women who ID as transwomen, are not on the APPROVED list.

And I know a LOT of transwomen they would NEVER be able to identify, so the policy is born of nonsense but perpetuates transphobia, so clearly, I'm not down with that.

The clarity for the trans community is so strong that in Boston, there was a performing group that was scheduled 2 years ago to perform at the Dyke March here which is a popular (and talented) team that performals annually at Michigan.

When some of us who are familiar made clear the transphobic policy of Michigan, the Dyke March leadership said, "No, thanks."

The then-editor of Bay Windows, New England's largest LGBT paper disagreed in an editorial with the revoked invitation (she's doing other things now). I still hold that she was in error, and we all welcome the opportunities to disagree.

But to me, discrimination is wrong, no matter the hue. I hope someday that the historic anger can dissipate and all women will be welcome, not that others would want to go. The anti-discrimination is the point, not the door recepits. Diego

MWMF is anti-trans, anti-feminist, anti-equality, pro-bigot, and pro-intolerance. It is an event that takes its identity not from who it includes but who it excludes.

I'm sure those who attended the last Klu Klux Klan Barbecue thought it was an empowering and affirming experience too.

MWMF helps keep the world a less just, less equal, and more hateful world for trans women. It will be a great day when this event goes the way of Jim Crow and segregation laws, and we'll all be much better off as a nation when that finally happens.

"I'm sure those who attended the last Klu Klux Klan Barbecue thought it was an empowering and affirming experience too."

Not the cows and the pigs and the chickens and the whatever else that got barbecued.

Of course, I bet the typical Klan member has more respect for those cows and the pigs and the chickens than the MWMF-oids have for trans women.

Sounds like a MWMF has made WBW almost into DADT.

Hey, haven't seen you around in a while, Lynn! Welcome back to commenting here!

"I support and respect the right for the founders to make any decision they choose regarding the womyn born womyn policy, since it is their event"

I have no interest in attending this event - but I strongly disagree with that statement. This organization is a business and has been for many years. I understand it started and existed as something else the first year or two - but it's been a business for decades.

As such - I don't think it has any more right to discriminate then say a bar that says it doesn't want to serve transgender people, or a hotel that won't allow gay guests. If a hotel were to say it was set up to only serve straight people - I'm pretty sure the owner of the We Want the Music Company" (which is the name of the company that runs this event - if memory serves) would have a problem with that policy.

There is certainly a place for people with specific needs to meet by themselves. But that's usually small support groups. Just as most nondiscrimination laws make exceptions for owner occupied two-families; when you get over a certain size - you're a business. And a public accomidation.

The collective filed its last annual report 24 years ago - the business was formed in 1985. The business has assumed names filed for WWTMC - funny how the wikipedia entry makes no note of the organization running the concert beyond the collective - which actually was a non-profit. And funny how the assumed name for the business uses WWTMC - the collective becomes assumed again.


ID Num: 714218


Type of Entity: Domestic Nonprofit Corporation
Resident Agent: LISA VOGEL

Registered Office Address: 1501 LYONS ST. MT. PLEASANT MI 48858
Mailing Address:

Formed Under Act Number(s): 284-1972 327-1931

Incorporation/Qualification Date: 3-25-1976

Jurisdiction of Origin: MICHIGAN

Number of Shares: 0

Year of Most Recent Annual Report: 84

Year of Most Recent Annual Report With Officers & Directors:

Status: AUTOMATIC DISSOLUTION Date: 10-1-1987


ID Num: 354459
Assumed Names


Type of Entity: Domestic Profit Corporation
Resident Agent: LISA VOGEL

Registered Office Address: 31731 NORTHWESTERN HWY STE 166W FARMINGTON HILLS MI 483341654
Mailing Address:

Formed Under Act Number(s): 284-1972

Incorporation/Qualification Date: 7-31-1985

Jurisdiction of Origin: MICHIGAN

Number of Shares: 50,000

Year of Most Recent Annual Report: 08

Year of Most Recent Annual Report With Officers & Directors: 04

Status: ACTIVE Date: Present

Hi Kathy.

Although its a business, they are within their rights under Michigan state law to discriminate in such a manner.

I cannot say the same for the municpality or locality in which the festival is held, however, so if that body has such a law, then you may have a point.

If, as a business, they are licensed to do business, and there is a prohibition against discrimination on the basis of gender expression and/or identity and sexual orientation that is enforceable by the licensing authority, then they could be sued under those grounds.

I suspect there is no such coverage (given most of the nation has no such coverage), and therefore they are, legally, free to do whatever they darn well please.

Were this to change, suddenly, well, then things would be more difficult for them but still not assured of being inclusive of the experience of all women.

There are bigger fish to fry. And I'd rather cook them.

Then again, if a competing festival existed that was inclusive, that would do a lot more towards ending their policy than anything else.

This issue always drives me crazy.

My opinion is let these "Janice Raymond" worshiping, strict binary constructionist, pseudo-feminists have their silly little festival.

They are just as trapped in the binary construct as are their oppressors, which then leads them to oppress a less powerful group, and hence the declining scales of discrimination rears its ugly head yet again.

Might I suggest, that before we worry about their oppression of us, that our own community is filled with its own exclusionary hierarchies from the HBS sect to the demeaning tones post-ops cast on pre-ops/non-ops, transsexuals vs CD's blah blah, etc.

MonicaHelms | August 10, 2008 10:10 PM

I find it amusing that this is one place where the HBS people are equally discriminated as the rest of us. They like to get upset about transgender women going into women's space, yet this is one "women's space" they also aren't allowed in. However, like the rest of us, if they don't let on about their past, or no one figures it out, then they can "pass."

But, in a serious tone, the HBS women deserve to go there, as much as any other trans woman. It's not a good situation all the way around.

there's a lot more to the wbw policy. whether we want to face it or not, wbw have much much different experiences from transwomen. what i do not understand, however, is how transmen are allowed to fest being that they are wbw technically.

i will say it is really melodramatic and unfair to compare fest to the kkk. that is why i would argue that our supposed community has so many gol darned problems.

If there was a festival run by corporation for "Americans born American" that excluded naturalised immigrants, would that be so very different?

Or one that was "White Women Only", a place where they could "feel safe" and have a "white affirming experience"?

The eqivalent, Sappho's Party in Australia, bans Intersexed women too. Only the genetically and somatically pure are allowed. Now they're not a co-operative either, but an incorporated body, so they're being taken to court over it.

Bigotry by individuals is perfectly pemissible - but not by commercial entities, at least, not in Australia.

On balance, the KKK analogy is more accurate than not. They too were, and the Aryan Nation are, "like minded folks" who felt threatened by anyone who wasn't 100% like them. No Jews, Catholics, or Blacks allowed.

I know some transitioned women who have attended Michigan since its inception. This makes a mockery of the whole "womyn born womyn" mystique, as if it existed, surely they would have been detected before now.

I personally would never attend such a gathering, for two reasons. One, it's not polite, but two, I wouldn't associate with an organisation whose bigotry I despise, no matter how much I might respect some of the individuals taking part.

there's a lot more to the wbw policy. whether we want to face it or not, wbw have much much different experiences from transwomen.

Do cis women really have incredibly different experiences from trans women? I know there's an essentialist view that all male-bodied people are raised one way and all female-bodied people are raised another way, but this view denies and erases trans experiences growing up, even before transition.

It also denies and erases trans women's experiences during and after transition, when we become the targets of sexism, sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, and sexual assault for being women. Does the fact that one of my employers wanted to charge me a blow job for a ride home have a different context to it than if a cis woman's boss does the same thing?

i will say it is really melodramatic and unfair to compare fest to the kkk. that is why i would argue that our supposed community has so many gol darned problems.

I agree, that was uncalled for and needlessly inflammatory.

I'd compare MichFest (and cis women-only policies in general) to something a bit milder.

My own stance on this is a bit different - I'm not personally interested in attending MWMF. However, I am interested in the fact that the idea of cis women-only space is considered to be something to aspire to, that trans women supposedly have no place in many women's spaces. I am especially concerned when I see cis women advocated that trans women not be allowed into domestic violence shelters or access to other women's services that would benefit trans women.

And I see MWMF as maintaining a huge precedent in that regard.

A lesbian friend attended this event some years ago. Her statement to me on the subject of MWMF was that it was a weekend of people having public sex in dirty conditions to the tune of bad music, poorly performed. She and her partner left early.

I've never been able to get excited about this event, and its trans-exclusion. Further, I recognize that events are held for particular groups of people, and why be interested in going if you aren't in that group? If you don't own a Harley, why go to Sturgis, for instance? There are many different musical events out there that will happily sell tickets to any transperson who wishes to attend. If they don't want me there, then I don't want to be there, and I reserve the right to laugh at them if it rains.

I first attended the Festival the year after its inception, & I can't deny I had some wonderful experiences there the first few years. But it's nothing but a business now, & one that thrives on exclusion & other not-so-benign practices, at that. Although they charge good money, they expect you to do work shifts to help keep their costs down, i.e., avoid paying their full-time volunteers.
In addition, they have tacitly endorsed a full-on leather phobia to the point where SM women have habitually had to guard their own campsite within the Festival from other "womyn" on this supposedly oh-so-safe land.
I stopped attending the year I came out as a transman. I'm too damn old to sleep in the dirt anyway, & I got tired of spending money for the dubious "privilege" of being abused. They can have their freakin' Festival.
Bitter? Yes I am. The Festival was one of the things that forced me to learn, rather quickly, that "sisterhood's conditional." As a pansexual transgender leatherman, I now know to take my allies where I find them.

First of all, I am not a fan of the coy use of the "Y" in womyn in an attempt to define female people as something separate from men or the defining note of a Second Wave Feminist. It is a completely concrete implementation of Irigaray's desire for a feminine language.

Secondly, I have what is probably a dangerous question:
Why do you wish to go to the MWMF?
What is your purpose in attending?

Is it a sense of solidarity and spiritual sisterhood with other women?
Is that realistic given the desire of the women currently attending for exclusive space?

Is it for validation, proving that you can enter women's space?
If so, Second Wave Feminists would see it as a hostile and penetrative violation of women's space and essentially as a male act in terms of the dynamic and nature of the act.

I have never been to the MWMF and have in fact only been to Michigan to change aircraft in Detoit once when travelling to a dinner party at Newport. I've no particular attraction to either mud or running around topless in the midst of mosquitoes. a Second Aave Feminist, I do wish to posit the questions as to motivation.

Hi Maura :D

As always, good questions.

I do not wish to go to it. They won't have me.

Were it possible for me to attend the event, given my multiple nature, I would go because I like to learn and grow and share from common experiences, and would most likely have a blast since I don't mind sleeping in the dirt and roughing it and on occasion they have some pretty ok music, too.

solidarity with women I already have, as I am one, and, in the culture in which i live, de facto, I have it already. But then, I do tend to look at what unites as opposed to what divides.

Spiritual sisterhood, well, within my faith, we *all* have that, regardless of gender, sex, or whatever else one considers, and the same goes for spiritual brotherhood. So for me, such is not something I can seek out and only have exclusive of half of it, but it something I have at any time and in any place.

That would not be realistic for many of the women, as I strongly doubt that any of them share my faith (but given how few of us there are and how little we are able to communicate these days, I suspect that I could be wrong). Most of them do not have that underlying philosophical basis, and so may indeed need that sort of opportunity in order to find that sense.

So for me, personally, that aspect of the event is merely a bonus, offering the chance to see and thereby come to understand a greater POV than merely my own.

Validation is always nice, but, to be frank, I can get that taking a pee or going to bed with my boyfriend.

personally, I have no interest in attending MWMF right now, and while I find their *exclusionary sexism* to be offensive and counter to my understanding of womanist philosophy, if they want to do it, go right ahead and do it.

Just don't complain if I choose to do something similar and make it equally exclusionary.

I do not think they should be doing so if, in doing so, they violate the laws of the land, and, therefore, I see the days and time for such an event to be numbered.

Then again, given I am actively developing an organization and a business which specifically takes advantage of both the inability of transfolks to honestly be exclusionary and the perceptual exclusion of them, I may not be the best person to comment.

Why do you wish to go to the MWMF?
Because it's a Women's Festival, perhaps? It says so on the label.

But as I said, I don't want to.

Supposing it said "Michigan Humyn Music Festival". Then made it clear that Jews and Blacks really weren't welcome there. You can see not only just how bigoted that is, but why some of us might not want to attend, despite being Human. Or rather, because we're human.

If so, Second Wave Feminists would see it as a hostile and penetrative violation of women's space and essentially as a male act in terms of the dynamic and nature of the act.

It's interesting that when certain women want to enter women's space, that the act is defined as a male act, as an expression of male privilege.

This is one of the many ways in which trans women's identities are disrespected and delegitimized for the sake of reinforcing the perceived-as-normative sex/gender binary.

Karen Collett | August 12, 2008 8:57 AM

Personally, camping is not my thing. But I think that Julia Serano makes a good point in her AlterNet article:

Perhaps more importantly, this is about us being able to have a voice within feminism more generally. MWMF is not only the world's largest annual women-only event, but historically it's been a focal point for dialogues and debates on a wide range of feminist issues. As someone who has experienced firsthand the substantial difference between what it's like to be treated as a woman and as a man, and who now experiences both misogyny and trans-misogyny in my day-to-day life, I have found feminism to be an indispensable foundation for me to make sense of my experiences and to articulate the obstacles and issues that I face. For many of us who are trans women, this is about having a voice in a movement that is incommensurably vital to us.

Sometimes I wonder why people in western culture define sex as presence or absence of a penis. What does that have to do with femininism? I am a transsexual woman born with penis and gonads and I ever had been a woman. And I don't believe in the western penis-cult...

Yeah. I've seen some trans-hating feminists accuse trans people of obsessing over genitalia, but I have to say that they're usually "penis this" and "penis that" when talking about trans women.

Or when John Aravosis was telling us uppity trannies to sit down and shut up so he could get his rights and leave us behind, he made a comment about men in dresses chopping their penises off.

In general, it seems that the people who hate us obsess more about penises than we do.

You mean like a certain congressman from Massachusetts?

A few things:

Lisa, some actions are perceived as intrinsically masculine in feminist theory other than third wave. Pushing into women's spacee would be one of those actions.

Because of the casual nudity issue, there is goign to be an issue about people with male genitalia at such an event.

Further, and I know that I will get a huge attack for saying this, some trans-individuals do not socialise as women. Many do not identify as women, but as trans first. The mind set and particularly the aquired socialisation and experience is different.

My friend of operative history has opined that she became female in six hours in Montreal and spent the next five years becoming a woman. She is socialised as a woman, but it toook time, by her own reconing. Her energy is female, her style and sense of presense is female, she is a woman.

That is not true of all who transition and as opposed to many, my friend identifies as a woman, simply woman.

I have been with other Trans-individuals whose presence and socialisaion are drastically different and, yes, masculine.

Aside from the genitalia, that is a huge part of the issue concerning the MWMF.

Again, I do not attend it, and it is not the Southern Comfort of Second Wave Feminism. Many prominent feminists do not attend(it is in Michigan, it has mosquitoes, it is muddy. One can remain active in Feminism without ever setting foot in the place.
And, also again, networking in feminism is not what the MWMF is about.

Now, flame away.
I am not staying around to read the responses as I have some things to do...women's night out, including my friend of operative history...

Hi Maura :D


I, personally, find that odd, as I do not identify as anything other than my name, first.

And second is *everything* else. All at once. Equitably, so.

I do agree with you -- some transwomen do not socialize as women.

I can think of two, recently.

In any case, I have a question.

I realize you may not answer it here, so I'll deal.

But I must ask.

What, specifically, is masculine socialization?

I know for a fact that pretty much all pre-ops would not go completely nude at an event like this, because many have genital dysphoria about what is between their legs. I wouldn't want to remove my pants, but I'm proud of what estrogene has given me on top. (Cs without any surgical enhancement.) Yeah, I know "TMI!!!!"

Others who are not so dysphoric would not go fully nude out of respect for the other women there. In spite of what you may heard, any-op trans women are a bit more shy about their bodies (on the average) the non-trans women.

And, as my friend D just stated, I also only identify as "Monica." All the other labels are tools in my activist tool box. I do it that way so I won't have to defend my choice of labels. If I ever get married to something, it will be a female-bodied human and not a label.

Lisa, some actions are perceived as intrinsically masculine in feminist theory other than third wave. Pushing into women's spacee would be one of those actions.

This is a catch-22. It marks trying to be included as another woman as an inherently male action. There's no way to win - the only options are to accept that trans women aren't allowed and thus accept the underlying assumption that trans women aren't women, or to ask for inclusion and be labeled as exercising male privilege, thus have the assumption that trans women aren't women imposed on you.

It's not at all intrinsically masculine for a woman to ask to be included in women's space. It's intrinsically privileged to assume that one's birth status gives her the right to label some women as "men" when it's convenient.

Because of the casual nudity issue, there is goign to be an issue about people with male genitalia at such an event.

Is that the fear that people with male genitalia will see nude women, or the fear that people with male genitalia will go nude themselves and expose their genitalia? As I recall, the only instance of male genitalia being exposed at MichFest was a trans man, not any trans women. And even then, it was in the shower, and not walking around the land.

Further, and I know that I will get a huge attack for saying this, some trans-individuals do not socialise as women. Many do not identify as women, but as trans first. The mind set and particularly the aquired socialisation and experience is different.

Okay, let's take your assumption above as patently true (I don't believe it is - I don't believe it even makes sense - but I want to make a point) for a moment:

Let's say there really are trans women who socialize as trans first and women second. So what? Are you saying that because some trans women might not be properly women that it's right to discriminate against all trans women? That the perceived or actual misbehavior of some can rightfully be generalized to all?

But seriously, what does "socialize as trans" even mean?

I have been with other Trans-individuals whose presence and socialisaion are drastically different and, yes, masculine.

What does this mean? I've seen this said about trans women who look masculine (which is so totally under their control without $20-$30,000 to spend on FFS, am I right?), which is plainly ridiculous. But I'm not assuming that's what you mean, I'm trying to point out that when trans women are labeled as having a masculine presence and socialization, anything can prompt that judgment. Being outspoken, asking to be included in women's events, wearing clothing perceived as too masculine (jeans, for example), wearing clothing perceived as too feminine, wearing makeup, not wearing makeup.

But this also goes back to my previous statement - even accepting this, even accepting there are trans women who act like men and never ever stop, why should all trans women be judged according to their actions?

Or even - all of these traits that are intolerable in a trans woman are acceptable in cis women who attend MichFest. They are not seen as negating her womanhood, but a single such trait in a trans woman marks her as "really a man." How can I take your statement at face value when I have to navigate the fact that most non-trans people I have met - feminist, not feminist, doesn't matter - apply these judgments to trans women willy-nilly? Without specifics, how can I assume that what you're saying is really in good faith?

Also, why is your friend's vagina important to this conversation? Why are trans women's genitalia such a fascinating topic of conversation that it's necessary to reference them over and over again? Do we talk about cis people's genitalia like this?

I did not mention my friend's genitalia, Lisa.
I am not playing the "genital-speak" game either Lisa.

The Catch-22 is discussing women's space on any trans-thread.

As far as my "assumption," I have a lot of support for it Lisa, including my friend Dyssonance's observation.

Very honestly, I am tired of the knee jerk reactions whenever I point out some Second Wave positions. You do not even know, from my post, whether or not I share those positions, Lisa. They exist, though. But you attack the mere verbalisation of those ideas. Silencing argument is not really in line with Irigaray's conceptions of Écriture féminine.

It is as Cixous writes, Lisa; for women to fly we first need to be able to steal back the right to speak in a language of our own, using the metaphor of the language of our bodies. Michigan is for the women of the old Second Wave, particularly the American Second Wave Separatists(I am not one of them, btw, I am European) that place.

If you want to try to understand the philosophy behind this I would recommend reading Cixous's The Laugh of the Medusa as one of the better examples.

I was already looking that up after I saw you reference "Irigaray's conceptions of Écriture féminine," but thank you for the reference.

I'm wondering why MichFest must remain forever and always for the second wave. A large number of women in the third wave attend, and it's 30 years later. Why is it necessary to hold onto attitudes that are largely based in bigotry? Or specifically, anti-trans bigotry?

You didn't mention your friend's genitalia? Really?

I am not staying around to read the responses as I have some things to do...women's night out, including my friend of operative history...

Why mention that she's had surgery?

The Catch-22 is discussing women's space on any trans-thread.

Because trans women will say "We're women, why can't we come in?" and someone will inevitably accuse them of exercising male privilege?

Yes, that's the catch-22.

As far as my "assumption," I have a lot of support for it Lisa, including my friend Dyssonance's observation.

You mean the assumption that many trans women identify as trans first, then women?

Or the assumption that you seemed to be making that this should have any bearing on whether trans women are acceptable as women?

Very honestly, I am tired of the knee jerk reactions whenever I point out some Second Wave positions. You do not even know, from my post, whether or not I share those positions, Lisa. They exist, though. But you attack the mere verbalisation of those ideas. Silencing argument is not really in line with Irigaray's conceptions of Écriture féminine.

The tone argument? I'm being too mean? I'm attacking?

I know the second wave positions exist. I consider them largely hate speech, insupportable, and invalid. They're based on false premises that have more to do with the writer's (and other women who believe those positions) prejudices than with trans women. They're not equal in validity to the lived experiences and realities trans women have to deal with.

Since you don't agree with them, why point them out without clarification? Do you think that trans women come into these discussions completely ignorant of second wave attitudes toward trans women? That we haven't read The Whole Woman or The Transsexual Empire?

How am I silencing anyone? By disagreeing strongly? What am I supposed to do when I see arguments based on discrediting trans women as women? Let them pass? Agree? Say that people who don't see as trans women have a position equal to those who do see trans women as women?

I'm still wondering what "socialize as trans" means.

I honestly believe that most of the readers of The Transsexual Empire are trans. It isn't bad up to a point, but Dr Raymond makes a huge leap of logic about midway thrrough.

You can believe that all of Second Wave Feminism is invalid if you choose, but there are various kinds of Second Wave Feminism Lisa.

They are born out of the experiences that women have had to live with.

Women....just women. No qualifier.
Of whatever history or path that they arrived at woman by.

I'm sorry I was unclear: I wasn't trying say that all of second wave feminism is invalid. My introduction to feminism was second wave, and I agreed with much of it until I hit Janice Raymond. I didn't stop agreeing with much of it (and still agree with much of it) because of that, but I found it harder to identify with the second wave as a movement, even though I never stopped identifying as feminist.

I was saying the trans-hating bigotry in the second wave is invalid. That it's not based on lived experiences but on the idea that knowing one fact about a woman means you know everything about her that matters (Oh, she's trans, that must mean she's a man trying to invade our spaces).

And even if some of those women met women who were trying to leverage male privilege or socialization, it's still not really valid to generalize that to an entire group of women.

Women....just women. No qualifier. Of whatever history or path that they arrived at woman by.
Isn't that the exact opposite of the MWMF's philosophy?

Some Transwomen ID more as Trans than women. Some Disabled women ID more as Disabled than women. Some Black women ID more as Black than as women. In all cases, it's been because they've been forced to due to Patriarchal oppression.

Some Transwomen "vibe" male. But not nearly as much as any Transman, and they're accepted. About as much as some Ciswomen, in fact.

If the MWMF was called something else, something that didn't stake an aggressive claim that "real" women meant conforming to their transphobic definition and silencing the narratives of those who differ, there'd be less of a problem.

Going back to the "Americans born American" analogy - a fest that excluded naturalised migrants - that would be nowhere near as oppressive as calling it merely "American", and denying the validity of naturalised citizenship.

Seriously, imagine an "American Music Festival" that no longer expelled naturalised citizens, but did say that if they attended, it would be a mark of disrespect for all Americans. And then denied that they were Xenophobic.

Please tell me how the MWMF situation differs?

"some transwomen do not socialize as women." ... and why? I originally thought socialisation has to do with learning from each other, talk to each other, try to understand each other, aso.... interesting. But how can women-born-women who are born with penis and gonads do this without contact to other women? If a trans-girl is newborn she hasn't any socialsation at all, too... why tell her, that she has to act like a boy? In cause of the penis? Socialsation is not an accident...

On the socialization thing, I'm seeing the idea that trans women socialize purely as boys and men until they transition (with the unstated corollary that trans men socialize purely as girls and women until they transition) and only then do they start to pick up social cues and messages and such intended for girls and women (and even then, apparently not always).

And I'm wondering why people think this?

Let's take the classic trans life story - one that fits my life pretty closely. I saw myself as a girl as early as 4 (one of my earliest memories is in fact related to this), and my mother tells me she saw this even earlier.

I'm not going to argue that I was not treated as a boy while growing up. What I'm will say is that I saw myself as a girl, and saw my body as wrong. I perceived the social cues for boys, did not want, and used them as a defense mechanism if at all. I perceived the social cues for girls and did want, and I know I internalized that. How could I not? I knew who I wanted to be, who I should have been. My self-identification was strong enough that I couldn't shake it no matter how hard I tried (and I did try).

How could I have uncomplicated socialization as a boy? How could my first taste of socialization as a girl only begin after I transitioned?

I am not saying that I socialized as a girl, either. My childhood isn't simple enough for me to say I socialized one way or the other - I had to deal with all kinds of mixed messages (like: You should be what you hate and you should hate what you are) on top of the simpler gendered messages.

I have talked to other trans men and women and they've described similar experiences. So how is it that it's reasonable to write off trans women's pre-transition socialization as the same as any boy's?

Let's look at a rather essentialist reality that is often overlooked, because it challenges too much and exists in direct counter to the concept of a binary.

Simply put, even if there was a Binary, Transwomen could not have socialized as men, and transwomen could not have socialized as women.


Because they are, in practical terms when cone considers the anecdotal experiences of them, or even when one examines the psychosocial underpinings of what it means to be trans, neither.

THis is used much becuase it does undercut the point of transition in a real sense and is somewhat useful to the "other side.

To be fully socialized (or, for that matter, partly) one has to be a member of the particular group. Since transwomen do not exist as and are not actually a part of the male group to anyone other than a non-transperson, they cannot be socialized as men -- they can only learn how to *mimic* men.

A constant element of translife, and one of the most common issues found in transsexuals, especially, is a form of disassociation. They separate themselves from the means by which they move through the world. This takes all manner of forms, but serves, for the purpose of this discussion, to act as a division point.

Now, Maura is someone I like a great deal, and I know her position *fairly* well, but my style of adversarial interaction is at direct odds with hers.

IT was, in fact, learned from a series of women (my family history is essentially one of a matriarchy internally) with influence by the fact my male family (until my generation) are all lawyers.

So one cannot state that my particularly aggressive stance is derived from a patriarchal masculine socialization, as that would be incorrect. Nor could one truly state it was due to feminine aggression training, as that is also not correct.

The same applies to most of my life, but, given that male role models were forcibly introduced into my life and summarily ignored, one could make a strong case for a greater degree of feminine influence on my life (which is where the arguments that its all due to overbearing mom's come in, as flawed as they are).

The downside to this pioint -- that transfolks are not adequately socialized as either (and, to be blunt and somewhat annoying, no one gets through being trans without some sort of atypical and thereby "dysfunctional" issue socially) -- is that it also means that no transperson is actually a woman, either.

And, therefore, outside the rules for what is a man and what is a woman.

This undermines the basic precepts of most MWMF arguments for inclusiveness, which is why its rarely raised, as let's face it:

socially speaking, we live in a social milieu that is binary. Socially speaking, we have at this time only the binary, despite the effort to change this socially to reflect what we know scientifically.

(not too far off from the period about twenty years after the release of Darwin's seminal book, socially speaking, in terms of how such effort will, ultimately, change society)

Now, within that structure, while the MWMF succeeds in its disallowing transpeople from the festival, the *reason* for the festival, which is ultimately for the expression of feminism in various forms, is now subject to assault on the basis, especially in terms of the binary itself.

Which makes the festival even more discriminatory than before, as well as casting a negative light on feminism which is dependent on the binary system.

Because if transfolk are not male OR female, then they must be something else. Which threatens and wrecks the binary.

All which is pointed out not as a matter of my personal viewpoint, but as a simple exercise in understanding multiple viewpoints.

(as most folks who are familiar with me are aware, I am generally much more based in the science behind my position than in the dogma of any established movement or philosophy).

Given my earlier question was ignored, I don't expect this to raise much interest, but I felt it important to toss out there.

I hope not, I love this post. You distilled what I was trying to say about socialization while growing up. I think trans women absorb messages for boys (even though we do not want) and use them for self-defense if nothing else, or try to reconcile them with our own identities, and we absorb messages for girls, and we do not socialize like boys or girls, and the way we socialize in relation to boy is not at all like the way we socialize in relation to girl.

I don't think it undermines the reasons for excluding trans women from MichFest (or other women-only spaces) as the "woman-born-woman" justification exists solely to keep trans women out. To accept that all women have a common experience that is as similar as proponents claim erases the experiences of a large number of cis women. I also think that trans women during and after transition experience a lot in common with cis women, which is nothing but justification for inclusion in women-only spaces.

I do think that regardless of what our early lives are like, transitioning does tend to lead directly into socializing further into one sex or the other. I also suspect that trans people pick up a lot more socialization from their actual gender (that is, the one they know they are, not the one based on their birth sex) than anyone really suspects or believes.

Also, yes on adversarial interaction. I'll also point out that one of the ways that cis people police trans women specifically is by calling the way we engage male or masculine, and that this is a variation on the tone argument - "I'd listen to you if you weren't so mean."

Although, the writings Maura pointed me to are interesting.

I do think there hasn't been enough talk about how trans people socialize - just assumptions imposed on us by people who are not themselves trans.

Maybe you're interested in this here (it handles teh situation in Germany but can be an example for other countries too):

I think there are lot's of violations, agressions and hateness against transsexual girls and women that there's the need for a change... maybe - and that's waht I hope - there'll be a time in the not to far future that all woman will have equal rights on earth. Most of the aggression against these women are based on patriarchal definitions of sex and gender. And I believe it's time to change these definitions and prejudices...

I realize I'm late in posting here, but I want to thank everyone who participated in this discussion. I especially want to thank Lisa for the clarity of her analysis of the fallacies that lie behind the exclusion of trans women from "women" only spaces.

The Michigan Womyn's Music Festival - a gathering to celebrate the achievements of women seeking equality and breaking thorough the barriers of male privilege by creating a gathering that enforces both inequality and privilege in our society.

They should consider next year handing out t-shirts that read "MWMF - Fighting for cis-privilege and inequality for trans women"