Trans woman is allowed into Michigan festival
But organizers still ask festival-goers to honor �womyn-born-womyn� policy
Hart, Michigan--Transgender activist Lorraine wasn�t surprised when she was denied a ticket at the box office for the 31st annual Michigan Womyn�s Music Festival earlier this month.
However, when she received a letter from festival co-founder Lisa Vogel the next day seeking dialogue on the non-inclusive trans policy, but also asking her to �respect the spirit of the womyn-born-womyn policy,� Lorraine knew what she had to do.
The next day she walked up to the gate again, identified herself as a trans woman, then successfully purchased a ticket for the festival.
Festival crew member Holly Pruett denied any policy changes, and said the festival--which this year attracted more than 3,500 women from around the world--still stands by the festival vision of providing a safe space for �womyn-born-womyn.�
However, Pruett said organizers will leave it up to individual ticketholders to decide whether or not they want to honor the policy.
Lorraine, who asked that her last name not be used, said she had no intention of breaking any festival rules and hoped that attempting to purchase a ticket as a trans woman would help clarify the admittance policy.
�I didn�t want to disturb the festival or cause any trouble,� said Lorraine, who has attended Camp Trans, an educational counter-festival, for the last four years. �I just want the festival to include everyone who lives their lives as women 52 weeks of the year.�
Camp Trans is an annual gathering of trans people and their allies in Michigan created with the intent of protesting the exclusion of trans women from women-only spaces, most notably the Michigan Womyn�s Music Festival, and building a trans-inclusive community that is welcoming and safe for all, according to its website, www.camp-trans-org.
Lorraine�s partner, Pam Benetti, also attended Camp Trans and helped �walk the line� along the dirt road entrance to the festival, telling festival-goers about the event�s non-inclusive policy.
�Ultimately this will make the women�s community a lot stronger because the issue will dissipate,� Benetti said of her partner�s entrance to the festival. �Also, I think a lot of young dykes who have been avoiding festival [because of the controversy] will return.�
Pruett said Vogel�s letter to Lorraine conveyed the positive attitudes most women attending the festival have toward transgender people, and that most women attending it are trans allies.
�[Vogel] deeply desires healing in our community,� Pruett said. �I hope [trans women] can find it in their heart to deeply respect the need for �womyn-born-womyn� space.�
Even though the festival has not officially reversed its �womyn-born- womyn� policy, Lorraine sees her interaction with Vogel and her entrance into the festival as progress.
�I don�t see myself as a warrior,� she said. �I see myself as a quiet, polite peacemaker.�
In the two weeks since the festival closed, both Camp Trans and the Michigan Womyn�s Music Festival sent out press releases putting different spins on Lorraine�s communications with Vogel and her admission to the festival.
Camp Trans� perspective is that, while the policy has not been officially changed, that alteration is on its way.
The festival, however, in an August 23 press release, insists that they never question a woman�s status because of the wide variety of gender expression of �womyn-born-womyn,� but that they still ask transwomen to respect their policy.
The festival�s release quoted one of Vogel�s letters to Lorraine.
�I deeply desire healing in our communities, and I can see and feel that you want that too,� Vogel wrote. �I would love for you and the other organizers of Camp Trans to find the place in your hearts and politics to support and honor space for womyn who have had the experience of being born and living their life as womyn.�
�I ask that you respect that womon born womon is a valid and honorable gender identity. I also ask that you respect that womyn born womyn deeply need our space--as do all communities who create space to gather, whether that be womyn of color, trans womyn or trans men . . .� she continued. �I wish you well, I want healing, and I believe this is possible between our communities, but not at the expense of deeply needed space for womyn born womyn."
The press release opens with Vogel�s statement, �Despite claims to the contrary by Camp Trans organizers, the festival remains a rare and precious space intended for womyn-born womyn.�
Anthony Glassman contributed to this article, originally published in Between the Lines newspaper.