I’ve been going back and forth. About going. About why I would want to. About how important it is. About what I can contribute and what I can risk.
For the past year The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (MWMF) has been a part of my life. Many of you might remember that I had decided to go last year and then changed my mind last minute. It was absolutely the right decision for me at the time and I have no regrets. But nearly every day since then I have thought about the festival. Either because I was weighing whether or not I would ever go or someone was encouraging me to or I was talking/reading about the spoken/unspoken policy excluding women who are Trans. It just kept coming up. A lot. From expected and unexpected places.
And then a friend told me about a group of folks who are organizing to ensure that the festival is truly inclusive of all women. She asked if I wanted to be on their email list serve and I said sure. Since then I have been deeply touched and inspired by the organizing happening across the country and in people’s living rooms. The group is called Trans Women Belong Here (TWBH) and is made up of both trans and cis women who have attended MWMF in the past or may in the future. Folks have shared their stories, their hurts and their hopes for the festival. But more than that people have talked about how we engage in this conversation. Emphasis is put on personal connection, speaking from the heart, respecting each others experience and living in the complexities. Truly making and understanding politics that are personal. It is a way of creating change that deeply speaks to me. And you can donate to support their work by going to: http://transwomenbelonghere.blogspot.com/p/donate.html.
Over the past year I have spent time with folks who are long time festival lovers. They are all cisgender. Some are active and vocal proponents of Trans Inclusion, some are on the fence and some are suspiciously quiet around me. My position hasn’t changed. I believe that women, both trans and cisgender, have a great deal of learning, loving and healing to do together. I believe that women’s community should belong to all women and I believe excluding one woman’s experience in favor of another woman’s is a way our communities replicate patriarchy, not heal from it.
I sort of assumed that I would never get to a place where I felt comfortable going. And after all, who cares right? It’s just a week in the woods. It is not a solution to the harm patriarchy creates nor is it the origin of transphobia. Besides wouldn’t efforts be better spent on working against transphobia as it relates to the prison industrial complex, access to supportive services, housing, etc. Perhaps. But what has come to me is this idea that perhaps there is some possibility for actual change here. For shifting. Because we are doing this to ourselves and my location to power in my everyday life isn’t going to dismantle the PIC but it might support a cis dyke in broadening her vision of sisterhood.
So after many hours of processing, I’ve decided to go. Decided that one of the many risks I was willing to take was the risk of being wrong. Of making the wrong choice. So we’ll see. While I am at the festival my tent space will be visibly marked as a safe place for trans women, I’ll be rocking a Trans Women Belong Here shirt/button/patch, I’ll be helping to distribute pamphlets and other materials that TWBH have generated and I’ll be supporting the many scheduled conversations on the topic of transphobia, as well as having informal conversations of my own.
And before I go I am helping to raise funds to support women who are trans in getting to the festival. Many women want to go, want to be part of this space and this dialogue, knowing that it is highly likely that they may be exposed to overt transphobia from other women. The emotional risk and cost is great and so TWBH has set up a scholarship fund to offset the financial cost. I know many of you would never have considered donating to support this space but I’m asking you to consider supporting trans women who have named this space as an important piece of the dialogue about how they are treated by other women. You can donate online by going to: http://transwomenbelonghere.blogspot.com/p/donate.html.
But of course my desire to go is not just about organizing opportunity or work as an ally. I also want to go because it sounds decadent and downright joyful. Because I need more joy. Because I am still deeply saddened and angry that space that values women’s labor, lust and talents feels decadent and not commonplace. Because I believe in the power generated when communities gather to tend to shared wounds and celebrate their survival. Because I need healing. Because I believe people when they tell me they have never felt as safe as they do when they are at festival. Because I want to feel safe. Because I want to challenge that sense of safety and the idea that harm comes only from outside our communities. Because my work is heavy with trauma and I want to lie in a quiet summer field and feel far from it. Because queer spaces free from corporate influence are rare and precious. Because I deeply miss working class culture. I miss spaces where women who work with their hands are too common to be fetishized, by me or others. Because I yearn to spend time with other working class queer women who hold dear to a Midwest sensibility. And because this space feels rich with opportunity. And I can’t help but feeling like there is something there for me. Something to learn.
So come the first week of August I will find myself steeped in complexity and summer heat. I trust there will be both deep challenge and joy. I trust I will not come back the same. I trust that I will find the places where I’ve fallen short and will try again. And I trust the revolutionary potential of women talking under stars and claiming the space that they deserve. We are all worthy, we are all precious and we all belong here.
With deep love and respect,
p.p.s. Here is a link to the letter I wrote last year explaining why I wasn’t going.