As one woman-born-woman lesbian feminist to another, I salute Lisa Vogel’s nuanced and in-depth letter to the Community about the issue of transwomen at the Michigan Women’s Music Festival. A response from Vogel is long overdue.
I want to highlight the sentence which I believe forms the core of her essay, that is:
“I passionately believe the healing in our community will occur when we unconditionally accept transwomyn as womyn while not dismissing or disavowing the lived experience and realities of the WBW gender identity.”
This is well said and accurate. I hope this healing day comes soon. Perhaps the Millennial generation, as they grow, will no longer find this an issue because they can hold in their minds an equal appreciation of the “lived experience” of WBW and the validity of transwomen as two different genders.
Meanwhile, there are other qualities of being a lesbian that I have long questioned about
Michigan’s current—but dated—policy. An aspect which Vogel doesn’t address.
As a woman born woman and a butch, the “lived experience” of being “woman-born” has been somewhat confusing to me because I was socialized as male as well as female. Growing up my parents and sibs treated me as gender-neutral or mixed gendered. I was raised as my father’s son and my mother’s daughter. Many of my characteristics (dress, thinking, relational dynamics, etc.) are what were termed “masculine” in the '60s.
I know this is to be similar for thousands of butches I have met or talked to over many decades. Yet, butches can go to
Transmen can go to Michigan.
But transwomen can do so only covertly. Butches and transmen, most of whom are more male than Michigan's policy suggests transwomen to be, are welcomed at the festival. This policy holds little logic.
Is Vogel saying that butches are women-born-women? This is, at best, only partial true. Most transmen I know appear to have less “lived experience” as a woman than I did. Are Vogel and other supporters of the current policy, then talking about how much “lived experience” is enough to get one overtly into
Michigan? How much is enough? Five years,
twenty? Slicing and dicing this qualitatively or quantitatively is a path too
complex and inherently too dishonest for us to go down.
I think we should instead go down the path of self-identity as being a valid enough I.D.
If a transwoman has ‘voted’ to take on the burdens of female identification I believe that is license enough to admit her into a female-only venue. Especially if she is a feminist and/or aware and educated enough, as many WBW are not, of what it means to be a feminist.
Fortunately, perhaps only as an accident of timing, I came of age at the dawn of feminism and was privileged enough to be taught the value of being a woman, a feminist, a lesbian, and a women of color in an otherwise sexist (and racist) world.
So, as a butch feminist, I challenge
Michigan to take the next evolutionary step
and ‘straighten’ out its illogical and non-foundational interpretation of
I put out my thoughts and opinion in order to further our discussion of what it means to be a woman in 2013.
If responding, please remember the truly foundational precept of feminism—sisters talking to sisters. So let’s talk and not hurl (accusations)! If
doesn’t stand for that, what does it stand for?