Weighing in on MichFest

What I would say to a trans*sister, whoever you are:

I first went to MichFest in 2002, and it was wonderful and amazing. When I left, my feet stood on the earth more solidly, and my gaze was level.

When I first heard about various trans* conflicts on the Land, I stopped and thought about it. I felt that to be a woman born in a male body must be agony.

My own issues with femaleness had to do with how not to feel naked when I checked out at the grocery store and I had stare at the magazines with scantily clad women on *every* cover; how to deal with my menstrual cycles in high school when the boys in Social Studies made snide references to how the girls’ swim team left ‘blood in the pool;’ how to be heard in math class when, overnight at 13, I went from the smart kid to practically invisible; how to travel on a plane or bus without being accosted by some dude who claimed the right to monopolize my attention and energy; and countless other daily challenges.

My new trans*sister, you have had it harder than me in some ways: shaping your beard, your body and your voice through some pretty torturous and expensive means. I have empathy, compassion and admiration for your journey. Some trans*people I know have led excruciating lives.

I publicly and sympathetically recognize your struggle and your dignity. I have no impulse to refer to any woman with male nomenclature or pronoun. I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder under both the banners of “Woman” and “Human.”

But there’s a difference between how you have become a woman and how I have become a woman. A big difference. My journey to become my own woman is different from yours. Neither easier nor harder, just different, yes? This is the essence of pride and of diversity.

I can only imagine the efforts you have made on the path to your most complete self, your real womanhood. I cannot truly know what anguish you have experienced in your life or the cost of your unceasing efforts to become your true self. I have empathy, and, at the same time, I do not presume to know what you have gone through, and continue to go through. I support all my trans*sisters in their unique and respect worthy integration of mind, body and self.

And *you* cannot know *my* struggle, my efforts to fully become human and Woman. To become comfortable, safe, whole. You cannot know, truly understand, my heartbreak and joys as a female girl child, then a young woman and now as a full-grown woman. You can respect and admire me and my life, of course. You can observe, perhaps with envy, the ease with which my body is truly mine and expressive of my inner reality, compared with yours. Just as I can observe (sometimes, in truth, also with envy) those pieces of your childhood and adulthood that were easy, safe and privileged in ways mine were not.

I say we are equal in every way, human and spiritual and essential. We are just not the same. I have always been grateful that my body — especially after a week at the Festival — feels like my natural home. The body you were born in was not your friend. And none of that is your fault.

And here’s the thing: it’s not my fault either.

Michigan is one of a kind. On the entire planet, the only one. I am your sister, and we are all and each of us women. But Michigan singularly is not as much about who we *are* as it is about who we *have been*. You see?

I’m not asking you, I’m telling you: you can’t come. You can’t come. Don’t come. Stay away. Respect the intention. Respect our difference. Real women recognize diversity and honor it.

I’ll meet you at other fests, marches, Congressional offices, women’s studies departments, ladies’ rooms. But don’t come to Michigan.


P.S. One last thing: Michigan is the place where I, a femme lesbian, can meet butch lesbians. No one gets between a femme and her butches. I am dead serious. Invisible and isolated in the rest of the world, Michigan reveals us to each other like nowhere else. This cannot get muddied. So back off, trans*sister. Case closed.

– by Annie Seidl


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4 Responses to Weighing in on MichFest

  1. At the risk of being branded a heretic within the Transgender community, I have to say that I agree with you.

    The first time that I heard of the festival years ago was in the form of an article on a TG website. The website – as I’m sure you already know – was focused pretty exclusively on the M2F crowd. The author (long since forgotten by me) went on and on and on about how wrong it was for a festival that was supposed to be inclusive of all women to exclude transgender women.

    Now, in my head, I wanted to agree. Being a M2F transsexual, I saw myself (and still see myself) as a woman, regardless of my anatomy. Shouldn’t I be welcomed with open arms? Am I not a woman? But then I imagined myself post-op (which I am not), fully passable (again, which I am not), there at the gates, seeking admission. I wanted to believe, still want to believe, that I would belong there. That I would fit in. That it would feel like coming home. That I would be welcomed as a sister.

    At the same time, deep down in my guts, I knew I would be lying to myself if I managed to convince myself that I was doing anything but trying to obtain self-validation by soliciting acceptance. The more I thought about it and searched my heart, the more selfish I felt for wanting to steal something that didn’t belong to me: membership in the unique sisterhood that belongs to those born female. I have no delusions on that point. I was born male and raised male, no matter how much I might wish it was otherwise. Though I might warm my hands at the fire and take comfort from the warmth found there, I am not the flame, and I am not the light.

    The problem with being TG – with being human, for that matter – is that you can’t escape your past. It is the foundation our lives are built on. You can wish it away. You can play make believe and pretend it doesn’t exist. In the end, the lives we build for ourselves might even hide that foundation from view, but it’s still there, lurking, defining everything that rises above it.

    So I agree with you. As well meaning as they may be, I think my fellow trans*sisters are wrong on this issue. There should be at least one place where those born female can insulate themselves from a world filled with misogyny, objectification and antiquated concepts of what role women should play in society at large. Let the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival be that place.

  2. boijen says:

    No matter how flowery and coated in attempts to sound respectful, it’s all bullshit before the “but”. You go from “I got you” to “go fuck yourself” pretty damn quick and end with an attempt to sound threatening after having a ridiculous “real women” comment as if to somehow say that trans*women are only “real women” as long as they stay quiet about being treated with shocking inequality by folks like yourself. I swear if that isn’t akin to the “real women” aren’t lesbians because “real women” fuck and have relationships with men argument, I don’t know what is.

    The stark lack of actual respect and actual integrity is pretty startling. Integration of stated values matching action, on every level pretty much makes it seem like you’re attempting to cover your disrespect in false platitudes. Less than genuine. Which brings me back to it’s all “bullshit before the ‘but’.”

    • Lesbians are females who engage in relationships with other females. Words actually mean things. And trans women aren’t women at all, whether or not they “stay quiet.”

      I don’t respect a gaslighting movement hell bent on ensuring women remain subordinate forever. I DISRESPECT it, actively, and will continue to do so.

    • Your comment is why I’m not nice about this any more. No matter how much solidarity and kindness anyone extends to you, you keep taking. Your male behaviour is noted.

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