We came across an interesting item this week: Apparently, a music festival with the name "Michfest" is quietly oriented as a "Women-Only Festival Exclusively for 'Women Born Women.'"
It seems a strange decision to us. If you wanted to have a women-only music festival, why not simply proclaim loud and clear that it is for all sorts of women? But if you really wanted to become a lightning rod for criticisms about transphobia, organizers have found the perfect way to present their festival.
Now, we know that defenders of non-cisgender folks have it tough. The strides made by gays and lesbians (and bisexuals) in the last 20 years have been decisive and dramatic. But the people who put the 'T' in LGBT have reason to be especially defensive, facing a hostile culture and even some disdain from people who should be their natural allies. That said, sometimes that defensiveness can cause some activists to go overboard; when we interviewed Dan Savage a couple years ago, he recalled his "glitter bombing" and said it was due to the "the narcissism of small differences," adding that "if you're playing the game of who is the most victimized, attacking your real enemies doesn't prove you're most victimized, claiming you have enemies within proves you're the most victimized."
But that doesn't even enter into this; there's no need for trans activists to overstate their claims. Although it's not clearly stated in the festival guidelines, statements from the festival organizers demonstrate a clear intention to alienate any but those Festival organizer Lisa Vogel wrote earlier this year that the shindig is "intended to be for womyn who were born female, raised as girls and who continue to identify as womyn," and such artists as the Indigo Girls and Hunter Valentine are skipping the festival until that changes.
It's strange to think that the organizers are creating a "safe space" for women, especially lesbians, while freezing out trans women. That straight women are sharing this space with lesbians is an effective way to squeeze out homophobia; in the same way, wouldn't a festival open to all women squeeze out transphobia as well?
Apparently, there is room at Michfest for transphobia. For the price of a ticket, you can get dozens of performances, three vegetarian meals a day, workshops, childcare camps, a special gathering center for "womyn of color" and even sign language interpretation — but only if you were "born that way."