BY BTL STAFF
HART — National LGBT organizations that had signed their names to a petition drafted by Equality Michigan calling for a stop to trans-exclusionary practices at Michfest, a week long summer arts and entertainment event for women, have removed their names from the list.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights and the National LGBTQ Task Force both withdrew their support for the petition that seeks to: end the “womyn-born-womyn” intention at Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival; have Lisa Vogel, as co-founder and owner, meet with leaders of the transgender community and LGBT leaders and agree that transgender women are women/womyn too; ask vendors and workshop leaders to publicly declare support of an end to the festival’s antiquated and anti-business policy of exclusion; request that artists, attendees and vendors act in harmony with their equal rights values and not attend the festival until the transgender discrimination ends; and support other women’s events which are creating a safe space for transgender women.
Both organizations issued letters describing why they decided to pull their name from the petition. Both letters were met with an outcry from segments of the LGBT community, so the organizations released a joint statement April 11 in response.
“We are writing to state clearly our commitment to the full inclusion and welcome of transgender women, as women, in the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (Michfest). We will continue to actively work to fulfill that goal,” wrote Kate Kendell, executive director of the NCLR, and Rea Carey, National LGBTQ Task Force executive director. “After a number of conversations, we do not believe the petition/boycott is going to be ultimately productive in achieving the goal of a fully inclusive Michfest.”
Kendell and Carey added, “There have been a number of misstatements and distortions that have been included in some media reports, social media and blogs about our positions regarding Michfest that have wrongly equated taking our names off the petition with a lack of support for trans women. We have not abandoned our efforts to work for a fully inclusive Michfest. Our goal is a Michfest that fully welcomes Trans women.”
Both organizations believe that removing their names from the petition will allow them to pursue active, intentional dialogue with Michfest organizers in hopes of achieving their goal of a fully inclusive Michfest.
Carey wrote in her original letter: “Last year, the National LGBTQ Task Force signed onto a petition organized by Equality Michigan which called upon the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival to fully welcome and include transgender women, as women, at the festival. You took the time to write to me and I appreciate that you did — you and others shared with me your perspectives and experiences on the land that some described as ‘sacred,’ ‘an annual touchstone,’ ‘iconic’ and ‘home.’ I heard that you are angry and hurt by the Task Force and other organizations signing the petition.”
The 2015 talent lineup for the festival stage features lesbian-inclusive acts and performers such as BETTY, Cris Williamson, Julie Goldman, Crys Matthews, Bitch and Melissa Ferrick.
The Full Text Of Carey and Kendell’s Letters
Kate Kendell wrote for the NCLR:
“As you know, last summer NCLR signed the petition sponsored by Equality Michigan calling on the organizers of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival to embrace the presence of transgender women at the iconic gathering. In the wake of our signing, you contacted us to express your disappointment and anger that NCLR would sign a petition which called for a boycott of the festival.
“Many of the letters we received recognized transgender women as women and sisters in struggle, while also arguing that the intention of Michfest does not diminish the lived experience of transgender women.
“Since then, we have been involved in a number of conversations with Michfest womyn, Equality Michigan, transgender leaders and colleagues who signed the petition. These conversations have made clear that there are essential values and perspectives we all share and that the petition was not going to be an effective vehicle for a resolution.
“NCLR has removed our name from the petition and will be actively engaged in conversations in which we honor our differences while also pursuing a conclusion that supports the gender identity and inclusion of all women in Michfest. We have faith that such a resolution is possible.
“This entire process has been one of great learning for me and, while we may disagree on some issues, I think there are many values we share. I signed the petition on behalf of NCLR because our core passion and commitment is that we all be able to live fully and be embraced as our authentic selves.
“We are grounded in some deeply held principles, including the belief that discrimination and bigotry against lesbians is rooted in sexism, misogyny and the devaluation of women. We do not believe it is possible to win liberation for lesbians in a world where misogyny thrives. We also do not believe we can end the oppression of women and lesbians in a world where transgender women are reviled and targeted.
“NCLR has come to a deeper understanding of what Michfest means to our community and seeks to honor that through this process. We also acknowledge the Michfest organizers have been involved in an ongoing conversation over the years on this issue. We are committed to honest and forthright dialogue as a more constructive means for seeking resolution and common ground.
Rea Carey of the National LGBT Task Force, wrote:
“Last year, the National LGBTQ Task Force signed onto a petition organized by Equality Michigan which called upon the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival to fully welcome and include transgender women, as women, at the festival.
“You took the time to write to me and I appreciate that you did — you and others shared with me your perspectives and experiences on the land that some described as ‘sacred,’ ‘an annual touchstone,’ ‘iconic’ and ‘home.’ I heard that you are angry and hurt by the Task Force and other organizations signing the petition. I heard from you and others that Michfest is a truly historic and transformative annual event that has influenced, inspired and helped to liberate millions of womyn/women from the daily trials and tribulations of misogyny and sexism. It holds a very special place in the hearts of lesbians and other womyn/women.
“In the months between then and now, I have talked with womyn/women who have attended, womyn/women who would like to attend, and other people who have a variety of views. I’ve talked with our colleagues at Equality Michigan, leaders of other organizations who have been engaged in this and with transgender women. From these conversations, I have gleaned shared values, differing opinions and have come to a view that in order to move forward in any type of dialogue we must move beyond the petition.
“I am writing to let you know that the Task Force has asked that our name be removed from the Equality Michigan petition and we will be seeking other ways to be in dialogue about Michfest’s intention regarding transgender women. As we reflected on the petition’s contents and read carefully letters from concerned people like you, we came to understand that the point in the original petition that called for a boycott of vendors and performers was misaligned with our own support for womyn/women artists, craftspeople and musicians. Although that point was withdrawn from the petition, we recognize and share the deep concern about the possible economic impact on womyn/women striving every day to make a living through their art, craft and music.
“Please know that the Task Force’s view regarding the MichFest intention is rooted in our core value of inclusiveness and the festival’s extraordinary transformative power. For over 40 years, the Task Force has worked for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer identified people in all areas of our lives — whether it be in the workplace, the government, companies and, yes, in our own community.
“The Task Force will remain in active discussion with MichFest womyn/women, Equality Michigan, transgender colleagues and other organizations that signed the petition. The Task Force is committed to productive discussions in which we honor our differences and also pursue our desire for MichFest to fully welcome the gender identities of all womyn/women at the festival, including transgender women.
“For over 40 years, the Task Force has worked for a changed world. A world in which we can all experience liberation. A world in which misogyny cannot thrive. A world in which womyn/women, lesbians, bisexual women and transgender women no longer experience sexism, targeted attacks and the most horrible form of violence — murder. As we intensify our work to take on all of the challenges we face as a movement, know that these values are at the heart of what we do.
With care and in solidarity,