Thursday, April 25, 2013

Michigan: a Butch Feminist Responds

I support the goals but not the strategy of a public boycott of the MWMF festival at this time. I think it will do more damage than good. Trashing and boycotts within the movement have rarely moved our goals further.

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 Michigan. 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 femaleness.

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 Michigan doesn’t stand for that, what does it stand for?

15 comments:

tool4peace said...

well said.thank you for this very important argument for acknowlegin g that selfidentification is the key. who are we to decide that a MTW is not a real woman. In her eyes she is....and she paid a high price to become one.thank you.

Anonymous said...

.

Zoe Nicholson said...

Thank you Jeanne. I was just discussing this with a friend in her 30's. To her it makes no sense. And to me, 64, it doesn't either.
As you said, Self ID. That is the right way and, tho not easy for our older sisters to accept, it is 2013 and we need to admit we are alive today. We can celebrate the past but the present is ours.

Anonymous said...

Well, this issue is much more serious than it looks. Male to trans have been sneaking into Michigan for years, and have caused problems. A six foot three inch Male to trans person who is 300 some pounds can bully just about any born woman. This is women's private land. Male to trans could show good faith and create a festival and invite born women to come. Why not cook the dinner, do all the menial work, and clean up. All I see is people who lived and were raised as men bullying, threatening lesbian feminists with rape, and giving them death threats on the internet. I see no major trans objection to the death threats and intimidation, and if born women have but one week to themselves in Michigan per year, one wonders why the former men watch to crash that NO barrier as well. When women say NO we mean it. If you trample on that NO, your are acting like the men you claim yourselves not to be. Create something new, clean up the mess, and cook the dinners. Treat lesbian feminists with respect, and respect our right to organize for our own benefit. It's really that simple. And no, I don't feel safe with former men in the show with me.

Anonymous said...

It is a very sad state of affairs when events hosted by progressive straight women are far more lesbian powerful, friendly and free of trans threats than the so-called LGBT world. Why is it that lesbians have to fight every damn cause on earth, but our desire for free association on private land is under vicious attack? No this is not an equal world. Male to trans are not women, they are men who have decided to surgically altar their bodies so that they can "pass" as patriarchal women. That is all this is. Women who were born and raised as women and who biologically function as women--i.e. women get pregnant if men rape them, women have functioning organs, and we have been deemed the sex class by men. Then the sex class thinks it can tell born women what to do at private gatherings. Who should we support, the women who come to the land to heal from male sexual abuse, the women who want to shower and be free without the threats that Camp Trans hurls at us? What about the right of born women to organize for our own benefit? Why does the one place that still survives as a woman celebrating sanctuary get support from so many who don't have to face rape, or the threat of men in showers, or ex-military men who are big insisting they are just like born women? And why is the real concern for women's safety thrown under the bus yet again?

Anonymous said...

the boycotts, the threats on the internet, the real danger large male bodied people pose... the male to trans who faked being a female boxer and fought with a male muscled body.... any man can then come in if he "says" he is a woman. Men continue to sneak in, and women who cut up their bodies, and join the trans craze, they still want to be at lesbian powerful events. If you are female to trans, why are you at Michfest? Think of a 300 pound ex-marine who "presents" as a very unpassing female barging around Michfest, and everyone thinks this is ok? That women's safety doesn't come first, that women only space no longer has value because lesbians foolishly give in every time men threaten us or call us transphobic because we don't want to be raped? Take it seriously women, take this threat and arrogance very seriously, because the women who build Michfest have been running this sactuary and activist haven for decades. Where has the continuity of lesbian nation gone in most places in America? No, we don't agree with what male to trans say about themselves, we don't believe that you are women. And you can't draw us into this crazy making discussion, because you believe you can go anywhere you like, and you don't give a damn about born women's sense of bodily integrity. You bring violence with you. When an oppressed group says stay off our land, you stay off. You show respect, and if you want coalitions with lesbians, then do some work. Right now, you look like entitled aggressors who just don't take no for an answer, and when men ignore what women say, what do we call this?

Anonymous said...

PALMDALE, Calif. — A Palmdale man has been arrested for allegedly videotaping women in a Macy’s restroom while dressed as a woman.
Jason Pomare, 33, was charged Tuesday with five misdemeanor counts of unlawful use of a concealed camera for purposes of gratification.
Authorities say he was wearing a bra with fake breasts, a wig and women’s clothing as he videotaped the women Saturday.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Brian Hudson says a customer spotted Pomare and alerted security. A deputy on patrol in the Antelope Valley Mall parking area saw him leaving the store. Hudson says Pomare ran and was later found hiding in a mall storage area.
Hudson says Pomare concealed a camera in a brown paper bag and secretly videotaped women while they were using the restroom."

This never happens right? Women are just supposed to believe men when they say they are women.

Anonymous said...

Got another one for you. By all means, let all the men in Michigan, because they say they are women, they dress like women, and we are supposed to trust them.
Let's get real here. We have women only spaces for a reason, and these stories are very common. Police reports are everywhere and I am sick of born men telling me to trust them in lesbian and women's spaces. Just sick of it.

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (WUSA9) – Falls Church Police arrested a man in connection with a sexual assault earlier this year.
Police say on March 13, Carlos Guillermo Suarez Diaz, 46, approached a 17-year-old woman on the parking lot of 124 E. Broad Street. Diaz was allegedly dressed as a woman and asked the victim if he could take her picture. According to authorities, the teen consented but as the pictures were taken she was touched inappropriately. The victim told him to stop and left the area.
Police add the victim did not initially report the incident and a counselor notified police later that month.
Diaz is charged with one count of misdemeanor sexual battery. His arraignment is scheduled for May 13. Falls Church Police say tips and video surveillance from businesses helped solve the case.

Anonymous said...

Got another one for you. Police reports all over north America are full of these reports. Yes, by all means, let's let men into Michigan.

KELOWNA, BC — Police are looking for a man dressed in drag who has been assaulting women in Kelowna.
They say there have been at least four incidents dating back to last August.
Police say the suspect has been approaching women on the street.
“In all four incidents the suspect has groped and/or flashed the victims before running away on foot,” says Constable Kris Clark.
He says two of the incidents have occurred on Highway 33 in Rutland. The other two happened on Richter street.
Clark says someone might know the identity of the suspect.
“People may not have direct knowledge of these incidents but may be aware of a friend or family member who dresses in women’s clothing and fits the description of the assailant.”
The suspect is described as between 20-30 years old, 5’7″ to 5’10″ tall, with a very slender build.
Clark says the suspect wears tight fitting women’s clothing and has worn either a long dark wig or long blond wig.

Anonymous said...

Quote from another blog, "Let us be a part of your support group or we'll kill you." The trans solution to just about all boundaries women set these days.

MasterAmazon said...

Makes total sense to me. those who were born female, bio female, WBW whatever you want to call it. No matter how you were raised, as you say, partly as a boy/tomboy, partly as a girl, you're STILL a Female. All of us Butches pretty much rejected female role stereotyping at young ages, I did, as a hardcore tomboy. I rejected dolls, dresses and most girly things. I also rejected being a girl, because it made me 'less than' and the boys did all the fun exciting things like have fun adventures, explore, play baseball, ice hockey, karate ect...some of which I got to do, the martial arts for a lifetime, starting the tender age of 14, and ice hockey for two years as the ONLY girl in the entire league.

So as Butches we BROKE ground, Feminism is about women breaking ground doing things women were not allowed to do, go into fields women were not allowed to go into, whether it be the trades, being an astronaut, a physicist, an engineer, a cop(love my butch womon cops), firefighter(such hotties) or anything ELSE.

Michfest is FAR MORE INCLUSIVE of EVERY flavor of bio female womonhood than I've EVER seen on the planet. From naturally hirsute women NOT on hormones to get them that way, but still acknowledging of their FEMALE bodies, minds and spirits, to the extremely Butch to high femmes and radical Dykes. FTMS going to Michfest are GATE CRASHERS, not identifying as Female anymore, and put BUTCHES at risk that are farther down the line of Femaleness in acceptability.

I have NEVER seen the diversity of bio female womonhood or Lesbian Nation that I've seen at Michfest. I LOVED it, support it and would go back as soon as I can afford it again. IF you are Feminist as you claim Jeanne, you would understand our need for bio female space that honors Lesbians and ALL bio female womyn proud to be womyn for one week a year, or two months for those on long crew. It is part of our Female Souls and herstory, our Dyke energies to revel in these Female environments where we don't have to explain ourselves or be hassled by men of any stripe, past present or future.
-M.A.

MasterAmazon said...

And it wasn't till I came out AS a Lesbian and met other Butches in 1981, that FINALLY I got to own my Femaleness and BE PROUD to be Female, as well as loving other women...those Butches did NOT want to be men, but had also resisted and defied femininity, they were strong, powerful and Feminist groundbreakers in their own right. Not on the treadmill to transition like so many are these days. They taught me to be PROUD to be Female, proud to be Butch and proud to be a modern day DykeAmazon, hearkening back to those powerful women during ancient times defending the ancient matriarchies with their lives in tribal solidarity!


I see very little of that these days, when so many Butches are being told they just want to be dudes, not just by hets, but by their contemporaries in queer culture, and instead of learning to be PROUD of the kind of Female they are, as I was taught, they taught to overcome their Femaleness by going on hormones and eventually surgery to 'cure' their Female condition and oppression....

Michfest is one such place they can learn the opposite, and learn that they too have place amongst all flavors of bio female womonhoood, and just how large and extensive those flavors are....this is why it must stay for WBW ONLY. It's also the last Crown Jewel of what's left of Lesbian Nation.

Anonymous said...

Master Amazon, thank you for your powreful Dyke supporting article. Whether you are a butch, a femme you are still a biological woman. You were born and raised as a woman. Trans is nothing but a reactionary movement to make "gender" into science. It is not. Lierre Keith called it out as a gender hierarchy with men ruling, and of course telling all women what to do. Be a proud butch dyke. Do not allow appropiration of dyke powerful spaces and cultural traditions by bio men, who have no idea that they are trampling yet again on women's land. What a breath of fresh air you are, a much needed voice, because we have a bunch of women wanting to sell out the safety and security of all born women who created Michigan. Butch is still a woman, it is not a bio man. Biology 101 needed I guess.

Anonymous said...



Luisah Teish --reblogged
Alafia good people: My guidance from Yemaya has always been to reserve my opinion on issues until asked. Further when asked I am required to affirm that the person asking the question really wants to hear what I have to say. I have been asked to comment on the debate about the Michigan Women's Music Festival. So I am posting my statement here.

"I Chief Luisah Teish, author of Jambalaya: The Natural Woman's Book of Personal Charms and Practical Rituals, stand in support of the Mothers of the Michigan Women's Music Festival to maintain it as Space and Time for Woman Born Women. It was born for this purpose and over the decades has grown into a "social-spiritual" tradition.

It is totally consistent with the tenets of African Spirituality to have (Egbe) spaces, practices, and prayers for Woman born Women, exclusively . In the culture ,Men also have their own societies.

Those who see themselves as Transwoman have a unique identity and must take responsibility for creating their own traditions. Perhaps the Festival can provide space for this on another date, at another time.

While it is clear that we are all human, pretending that we are all already the same is a selective blindness.

Woman Born Women and Transwomen may consult and consort with each other. But it can only be done in an atmosphere of mutual respect, willing cooperation, honest expression, and most of all, humility in the face of what Spirit is allowing to evolve between us.

In Light and Progress

Luisah Teish, Iyanifa

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