Episode 495

September 19th, 2006 | Strip Archive

Here’s th’ latest episode. Trying a new technique for posting it here. Let’s see how it goes.

 DTWOF 495

351 Responses to “Episode 495”

  1. fjm says:

    Gulp. On all accounts.

  2. susansinclair says:

    As regards tech issues, the episode loaded beautifully and is big enough for me to read without my drugstore specs, so thanks!

  3. JenK says:

    Re: tech, it loaded beautifully and LOOKS beautiful!

    Re: Raf, he may be realizing that having his parents break up would not make him “normal”, nor would it immediately end the stress.

    Altho now I’m having a vision of Gloria & Stella moving in with Clarice, Toni, & Raf. Which would be more crazy – a V between Clarice, Toni, and Gloria? Or Stella & Raf adjusting to being not-quite-siblings?

    Re: Cynthia, love the coming out in the classroom ;)

    Re: Janis, whoa! Be careful there, dude!

  4. Dana says:

    I have been wondering, since the last strip, if Raffi will want to live with Clarice rather than Toni when the family splits — exploring the whole bond with the non-biological parent dynamic, and what that will mean to Toni.

  5. Deb says:

    It loaded perfectly! Thanks! I love the way the middle school lingo is so realistic! Middles school aged kids are so fragile and hard core at the same time. I agree with fjm…………Wow on all levels!

  6. Zan says:

    This is by far the best-looking and most earily readable web layout yet. Yay!

  7. Duffi says:

    Re: tech; loaded instantly (lovely, since we don’t have broadband); looks great.
    Re: content; I’m in fjm; gulp, indeed. Do you have spies in middle school? The dialogue is spot-on.

  8. Feygele says:

    This strip posted wonderfully.

    I like that there’s less than smooth sailing in the current strip, makes for interesting tensions.

    thanks!

  9. Jeffster83 says:

    “Gender and Society” is not one of the topics for which my local home school store provides curricula. Can you give a link to the one where Lois gets hers? ;)

  10. Agnes says:

    Great new format. Loaded instantly, perfectly legible.

    As for content, gulp and wow indeed, and you must have spies in college classes as as well. Favorite detail : student passed out/asleep in third row. Beautifully captured, too, is how even the smart students turn abstract debate into personally relevant high drama. Sooo real, it’s scary.
    Also love the way Cynthia remains true to herself. Not that I agree with her politics, but it’s great to see reflected in the strip that sexual orientation is only part of one’s identity, and coming out doesn’t turn everyone into a secular, left-wing, vegetarian feminist (unfortunately).
    Well, we knew that; the strip is harldy short on diversity. But it must take a lot of imagination and courage to dare portray Cynthia sympathetically. She’s not a caricature; pretty impressive. Even worse: she’s so smart and articulate – aren’t you afraid you (or we) might be contaminated?

  11. Jo says:

    The new web-layout for the strip looks awesome! Great strip, as usual.. and I love the little details in the background, like the student snoring in the back of Ginger’s class!

  12. I guess I have to revise this strip. Turns out the Michigan Womyn’s Fest has NOT rescinded its policy on transwomen after all. I based my info on an email I received, plus a press release I read on the Camp Trans site. But apparently there was some kind of misunderstanding. I’m trying to sort it out. THere’s some info here: http://www.ifge.org/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=275

    Have any of you heard anything?

  13. A says:

    I *wondered* about that … also, have a great time on the book tour Alison. Politics and Prose is a wonderful place here in DC. I remember coming to a reading by you about 10 years ago at Lammas down in Dupont Circle…

  14. firenze says:

    I’ll sleep with cynthia…

  15. Donut Rooter says:

    Brilliant!

    Loaded fine for me the first time, too. :-)

  16. Josiah says:

    Alison, if you made a mistake based on an email you received, then maybe Lois did too! She could easily have assigned Janis an essay under the same misapprehension that you were.

    I guess you can choose whether you’d rather fix the strip now, come back to the topic later (and acknowledge “Lois’s” error in-strip), or just let it go. (I’m sure we’ll all still love you whatver you choose…)

  17. Deb says:

    Alison, I like the idea of Lois receiving the misinformation like you did and somehow weaving that into the next strip. Great idea Josiah!

  18. Em says:

    I like that we’re starting to see Raffi’s interactions with his peers and not just his parents, I like that he and Stella still call each other by their dinosaur nicknames (I forget which strip it was, I know it was in ‘Sundry other Carbob Based Life Forms to Watch Out For.) Dunno if anyone else reads the webcomic Something Positive but it sort of reminds me of Davan and Aubrey still calling each other ‘Woogie’ and ‘Monkey Butter.’

  19. Danyell says:

    It loaded very well. You should totally use this format from now on. The image specs are perfect- no side, scrolling needed. Yay!

    And THANK YOU. I’ve been waiting and waiting to see more on the Cynthia and Ashley drama. And when did Janis get to be “almost 15″!? *sniffle* They do grow up so fast…

  20. tallie says:

    michfest clarification:
    basically camp trans sends a little group of woman-identified trannies over to the ticket booth every year to attempt entry into the festival. they out themselves as MTF before asking for a ticket. every year the ticket-booth seller denies them entry until this last summer, when the seller sold them tickets without a problem. much rejoicing was had by all, until lisa rofel got wind of it and posted that ugly transphobic statement about all womyn-born blada blada blada (sorry but i think you can tell which side of the debate i’m on). hence the confusion.

    i agree, since it was lots of confusion for everyone, that maybe janis can call lois out before the grand “street drugs” hormone revelation.

    ps. excellent work as usual. heartfeelings.

  21. Fortunato says:

    The little kids (who aren’t so little anymore) and the big kids break my heart. They are right on. When did Raffi get so big? and Janis….

    Great strip and no tech issues with this one. Loaded perfectly.

    So I was wondering, what became of Jezanna since she closed the bookstore? We saw her a while back helping to resettle refugees…but it’s been a long time. Can we see Jezanna & her girlfriend & dad again?

    thanks as always for this wonderful & original piece of contemporary art.

  22. Spark says:

    A clarification: Lisa Vogel (co-founder/producer Mich W’s Music Fest) is who sent out a statement re transgender (non) inclusion. Lisa Rofel — very different person — is a kick-ass anthropology prof at UC Santa Cruz.

  23. Mickpub says:

    Wow! Talk about moving characters’ stories ahead after the concentration on Toni and Clarice and Mo and Sydney (hmmm…wonder if they will do any partner swapping along the lines of Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice LOL!).

    Raffi — I thought he seemed pretty clued in to the likely possibility that Toni and Clarice will split up…but it’s nice to see him talk about it without it being in the midst of the drama with his parents. And it’s nice to see that Stella and he still are friends…although I keep wondering if one day the dykes will have to deal with them dating (shades of Romeo and Juliet!).

    Cynthia and Ashley — So things are status quo in their relationship, except Cynthia is being very open about their relationship (intentionally or unintentionally). Has Cynthia generally been out before now? I know that she talked about coming out to her family…as well as receiving static from fellow conservative Republicans on campus. But is this her first widespread coming out statement? And how will Ashley and Ginger react Could blasting someone about your sexual or not-so-sexual relationship in class violate the college’s sexual harassment rules? Imagine if Ashley brought Cynthia up on charges in student court, and Ginger was asked by both to testify!

    Janis and Lois — Whoa! Taking street hormones could lead to a lot of personal and medical drama! I can’t wait to see what happens with this twist! Will Lois and Janis’ mother (who seems to have been absent for ages!) cave in to Janis’ demands, try to reason with her, or come down strong on her?

  24. kat says:

    I love that Raffi and Stella still use their little-kid pet names for each other. They can’t be tooooo adolescent, then, right? Adolescence….this will be an interesting topic to watch (read) in the next little while…..oy….

    and yes, the formatting was great!

  25. Robin B. says:

    LOVE the sleeping guy in the seventh panel. The art in that panel made me laugh out loud.

    Well, gotta go teach now…

  26. Duncan says:

    Is there anyone else who’s really, really rubbed the wrong way by the term “outing oneself”? Especially since it has begun to replace “coming out”? I hear it a lot on our glb panels at the university here.

    What bugs me about it is that it seems that the people who use it either are 1) losing the meaning of the outing controversies of the early 90s, or 2) regarding anyone who’s openly gay as a victim — in this case, victims of themselves? “I outed myself” manages to turn the act of asserting and affirming oneself, which I still see as a positive thing to do, into passivity and self-devaluation. (Ooooh, I would never have admitted to someone that I was, like, totally gay, but then I brutally dragged myself out of the closet in front of the whole world.)

    Maybe it’s partly a generational thing, and I’m just replaying the role of the gayfolk of my parents’ generation who hated the word “gay.” And I know that with time, “outing oneself” will lose its history and become just another word. (Just as “coming out” has largely lost its original camp / debutante connotations.) But for now, for someone who’s lived through its history, it’s annoying as hell.

    Great strip, by the way. We know that Cynthia is smart as a whip, as Samia put it. But she’s still a pig, trying to use Ashley to satisfy her own base sexual urges while pretending to be above them.

  27. Carolina says:

    Love the school scenes, too! Do kids still use “Word up?” I think I used that in middle school, myself (80s).

    Duncan – I use “coming out” – “outing oneself” sound very detached to me, but I came out in the late 90′s so maybe it is a generational thing, like you said.

    I’ll be at Politics & Prose in DC on the 2nd!

  28. shadocat says:

    I don’t think I’d call Cynthia a “pig”- she’s just young and still has a lot of religious programming to deal with.

    I too sensed a possible budding middle school romance between Raffi and Stella. Especially now that both of their parents are splitting up. They’ll be leaning on each other more and more…

    Good to see Lois too, nut how’s her love life?

    I’ve got to admit I’ve been feeling slightly guilty all these weeks, getting all this wonderful stuff for free. Didn’t we discuss early on, paying some kind of fee, or subscription, or something? I know this is a little like that annoying girl in the back of the classroom, raising her hand and saying “Ms.Bechdel, you forgot to assign homework!”, but that’s the way I feel. Also, on a separate note, are the gay newspapers just not publishing ANY comics anymore, or is this just a regional thing? I live in Kansas City,and all of our papers (that are still in business) seem to be comic free.If this is so, it’s SO wrong!

    Oh, and this format is great-like it so much better!

  29. continuity obsessive says:

    re. Cynthia

    By attempting to censor class discussion and challenging Ginger’s authority to introduce the material she sees fit (common techniques of right wing students, btw), Cynthia is engaging in behavior that I would consider piggish. But maybe she can be excused on account of sexual frustration.

  30. Andrew O. says:

    Great format; opened easily for me, too.

    Why are people so pedantic and self righteous about semantics? (Or anything else, for that matter?) Use the term you feel comfortable with and leave it at that.

    Don’t left wing students also attempt to censor classs discussion and introduce the material they see fit? No one complained about Ginger’s introducing this topic or Ashley’s comment.

  31. plainsfeminist says:

    Am I missing something? Why is Cynthia calling her professor “Ms.”?

    (I notice this because my students often call me “Mrs.” -they are assuming – or “Ms.,” even when I give them the options of calling me “Dr.,” “Prof.,” or by my first name. It drives me nuts. With freshmen, it’s somewhat understandable, because all of this is new to them, but Cynthia knows better.)

  32. VS says:

    Ginger’s the teacher. She gets to set the topics and lesson plans. That’s part of the hierarchical structure of the classroom, and there’s no reason to complain about a student responding to a teacher’s question.

    Although the real problem with Cynthia’s classroom behavior is not her continually challenging Ginger’s authority–that’s just tiresome (not on the strip’s part, but speaking as a teacher!)–it’s that it’s completely inappropriate for her to bring her personal romantic life into the public discussion like that, especially w/o Ashley’s consent. I hope Ginger smacks her down but good. Something like “Cynthia, this is neither the time nor the place for personal arguments or insults. Please behave more profesionally.”

  33. Em says:

    “I notice this because my students often call me “Mrs.” -they are assuming – or “Ms.,” even when I give them the options of calling me “Dr.,” “Prof.,” or by my first name. It drives me nuts. With freshmen, it’s somewhat understandable, because all of this is new to them, but Cynthia knows better.”

    As a college student myself (4th year) I admit that I am often confused as to how to adress professors. I think though it’s because they tend to be on the younger side and if it’s a small class with lots of discussion, I end up developing a friendly rapport with them so I feel weird calling them “Prof. Something-or-other” But I don’t think I’ve had any professors specificly say how we should adress them though, and in so many of my classes (especially cause I’ve taken lots of theater and art classes) it’s informal enough that most of the students call the teacher by their first names. Of course what I do is avoid directly adressing the professor in the first place:)

  34. syd says:

    what a gr8 and appropriate and believable plot twist for Janis. good thinking.

  35. Jaibe says:

    WRT “outing yourself”, I think “coming out” is an intentional & dramatic act. Being “outed” means someone did it to you, you didn’t control it. I think Cynthia “outed herself” becuase she was getting upset & in the heat of the argument accidently said something she should *never* have said in the classroom. I thought it was a beautiful touch, because when you are in love for the first time, you *can* often forget there’s anyone there but you & your lover & accidently do inappropriate things (like er I started getting undressed in a clothes store once *outside* the changing room while talking to my partner.)

    I think Prof. Jordon should be Prof. Jordon, or at groovier universities “Ginger”. But never “Ms.”, sounds likes she’s still a teaching assistant.

    I think it’s OK for students to be informal with their profs so long as it’s *all* students (not just favorites) & *all* profs (not just female or young-looking ones).

  36. Deborah says:

    Shadocat:
    Alison has a Paypal “donate” button on the website (to the right of her blog), so please let go of the guilt and send her some cash! Maybe she is trying the NPR approach to see how many of us give without prompting – avoid the pledge drive and keep the strip coming! I just hope that the newpapers that she sells it to are okay with the web-access we are all enjoying so much….

  37. Jaibe says:

    By the way, Alison, now that you’ve solved this technical hurdle :-) is there any way you could get your blog people to support threading on these comments? It’s kind of hard to follow 100 comments chatting about different things in a straight line. You know, like the Live Journal site has.

  38. karin says:

    nice job. what happened to the global readership site map? I live overseas and am really psyched when a new location pops up. gives me a whole new outlook on certain countries, knowing that dykes to watch out for has had 1-9 hits in a one month period.

  39. Condoleeza Rice says:

    Jonah (Janis) is such a collection of trans-fear cliches and stereotyping. It’s as if Allison is reading Newsweek and TIME magazine for her information on children with gender issues. There is nothing that comes out of his mouth that is not related to being transgender or being a vapid feminine airhead. It’s as if in becoming a straight girl he’s also turning retarded (which his mother has expressed her reservations about).

    Most transgender teens have not had the kind of accepting lifestyle that Jonah has had (lesbian mother, home schooling, LBGTQ sleepaway camp, not living on the street or hustling) so why would he/she risk all of that? In addition, Jonah is extremely keen on researching transgender issues, so it’s doubtful she would take (mythical, especially for a fourteen year old) “street” hormones, knowing what he/she probably knows about how weak and dangerous they could be. But with this episode, it is revealed that Jonah is spoiled, as are all the children in DTWOF. Is this the result of these homosexual families, with all of their privileged upbringings and highly educated parents and open-minded communal households? Divorcee’s and chaotic lifestyles and coddled children?

  40. Kate says:

    Uhh–what now?

  41. JimmiJon says:

    Right on.

  42. Kathy says:

    A wonderful strip. Again, thank you so so much for your long support of transwomen in the dyke community!

    And yes, everyone thought there really had been a breakthrough with MWMF. Two transwomen were able to present at the gate as transwomen and purchase tickets and enter the festival (where they were received with cheers). One even ran a workshop.

    Fest seems to have changed in that they will no longer expel transwomen, even if they openly identify as such. But they will continue to state that women’s space doesn’t include transwomen and therefore that transwomen aren’t welcome. Except if you actually go in, because the anti-trans types have long since lost public support and most women are welcoming.

    On street hormones, the easiest way for middle class transwomen and transgirls to obtain hormones without a scrip is through the internet. They’re safe and effective and nearly everyone knows what pharmacies are reputable (inhousepharmacy.com in particular). I work a lot with transkids on the internet and there are a lot of kids with hormone pills hidden under the mattress who are marking time until they’re 18 or go to college or like Janice hope their parents will change their minds.

  43. Womyn2me says:

    Camp Trans released the original press release stating that MWMF had recinded the WBW policy… the release was sent out with Lisa Vogel’s name and number at the top of it, so folks thought it was a MWMF press release.. MWMF has released this clarification that the WBW policy remains the intent of MWMF:

    “Since 1976, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival has been created by and for womyn-born womyn, that is, womyn who were born as and have lived their entire life experience as womyn. Despite claims to the contrary by Camp Trans organizers, the Festival remains a rare and precious space intended for womyn-born womyn.”

    The facts surrounding the interactions between WWTMC and Camp Trans organizers are as follows:

    In the months preceding this year’s Festival, held August 8 – 13, there was communication between a Camp Trans organizer named Lorraine and Lisa Vogel. Letters from Lorraine continued during the Festival, when they were hand-delivered to the Festival’s front gate from Camp Trans, which takes place on Forest Service Land across from Festival property. On Tuesday, August 8th, Camp Trans organizers inquired at the Box Office about Festival admission. They were told that the Festival is intended for womyn-born womyn, and that those who seek to purchase tickets are asked to respect that intention. Camp Trans organizers left without purchasing tickets. They returned the next day and were given the same information.

    On Wednesday, August 9th, Vogel sent a reply letter to Lorraine which stated in part:

    “I deeply desire healing in our communities, and I can see and feel that you want that too. I would love for you and the other organizers of Camp Trans to find the place in your hearts and politics to support and honor space for womyn who have had the experience of being born and living their life as womyn. I ask that you respect that womon born womon is a valid and honorable gender identity. I also ask that you respect that womyn born womyn deeply need our space — as do all communities who create space to gather, whether that be womyn of color, trans womyn or trans men . . . I wish you well, I want healing, and I believe this is possible between our communities, but not at the expense of deeply needed space for womyn born womyn.”

    Lorraine at that point chose to purchase a ticket. Vogel’s written request that Camp Trans organizers respect the Festival as womyn-born-woymn space was consistent with information provided to Camp Trans organizers who approached the Festival Box Office. “Does this represent a change in the Festival’s commitment to womyn-born womyn space? No.” says Vogel. “If a transwoman purchased a ticket, it represents nothing more than that womon choosing to disrespect the stated intention of this Festival.”

    “As feminists, we call upon the transwomen’s community to help us maintain womyn only space, including spaces created by and for womyn-born womyn. As sisters in struggle, we call upon the transwomen’s community to meditate upon, recognize and respect the differences in our shared experiences and our group identities even as we stand shoulder to shoulder as women, and as members of the greater queer community. We once again ask the transwomen’s community to recognize that the need for a separate womyn-born womyn space does not stand at odds with recognizing the larger and beautiful diversity of our shared community.”

    * * *

    In an effort to build further understanding of the Festival’s perspective, answers are provided to questions raised by the recent Camp Trans press release (which contains misinformation):

    Why would the Festival sell a ticket to an individual who is not a womon-born womon if the Festival is intended as a space created by and for womyn-born womyn? From its inception the Festival has been home to womyn who could be considered gender outlaws, either because of their sexual orientation (lesbian, bisexual, polyamorous, etc.) or their gender presentation (butch, bearded, androgynous, femme – and everything in between). Many womyn producing and attending the Michigan Festival are gender variant womyn. Many of the younger womyn consider themselves differently gendered, many of the older womyn consider themselves butch womyn, and the dialogue is alive and well on the Land as our generational mix continues to inform our ongoing understanding about gender identity and the range of what it means to be female. Michigan provides one of the safest places on the planet for womyn who live and present themselves to the world in the broadest range of gender expression. As Festival organizers, we refuse to question anyone’s gender. We instead ask that womon-born womon be respected as a valid gender identity, and that the broad queer and gender-diverse communities respect our commitment to one week each year for womyn-born womyn to gather.

    Did the Festival previously refuse to sell tickets to transwomen? The Festival has consistently communicated our intention about who the Festival is created by and for. In 1999, Camp Trans protesters caused extensive disruption of the Festival, in which a male from Camp Trans publicly displayed male genitals in a common shower area and widespread disrespect of women’s space was voiced. The following year, our 25th anniversary, we issued a statement that we would not sell tickets to those entering for the purpose of disrupting the Festival. While this is widely pointed to by Camp Trans supporters as a “policy,” it was a situational response to the heated circumstances of 1999, intended to reassure the womyn who have attended for years that the Festival remained – as it does today – intended for womyn who were born as and have lived their entire life experience as womyn, despite the disrespect and intentional disruption Camp Trans initiated.

    Is the Festival transphobic? We strongly assert there is nothing transphobic with choosing to spend one week with womyn who were born as, and have lived their lives as, womyn. It is a powerful, uncommon experience that womyn enjoy during this one week of living in the company of other womyn-born womyn. There are many opportunities in the world to share space with the entire queer community, and other spaces that welcome all who define themselves as female. Within the rich diversity now represented by the broader queer community, we believe there is room for all affinity groups to enjoy separate, self-determined, supportive space if they choose. Supporting womyn-born womyn space is no more inherently transphobic than supporting womyn of color space is racist. We believe that womyn-born womyn have a right to gather separately from the greater womyn’s community. We refuse to be forced into false dichotomies that equate being pro-womyn-born womyn space with being anti-trans; indeed, many of the womyn essential to the Michigan Festival are leaders and supporters of trans-solidarity work. The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival respects the transsexual community as integral members of the greater queer community. We call upon the transsexual community in turn to respect and support womyn-born womyn space and to recognize that a need for a separate womyn-born womyn space does not stand at odds with recognizing transwomen as part of the larger diversity of the womyn’s community.

    What is Camp Trans? Camp Trans was first created in 1994 as a protest to the Festival as womyn-born womyn space. Camp Trans re-emerged in 1999 and has been held across the road from the Festival every year since. A small gathering of people who camp and hold workshops and a few performances on Forest Service land across the road, Camp Trans attempts to educate womyn who are attending the Festival about their point of view regarding trans inclusion at the Festival. At times they have advocated for the Festival to welcome anyone who, for whatever period of time, defines themselves as female, regardless of the sex they were born into. At other times, Camp Trans activists have advocated opening the Festival to all sexes and genders.

    What is the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival? It is the largest and longest running womyn’s festival in the United States. Since the first Festival in 1976, tens of thousands of womyn from all corners of the world have made the pilgrimage to this square mile of land in Northern Michigan. The essence of the Festival is that it is one week a year that is by, for and about the glorious diversity of womyn-born womyn and we continue to stand by our labor of love to create this space. Our focus has not changed in the 31 years of our celebration and it remains fixed on the goal of providing a celebratory space for a shared womyn-born-womyn experience

  44. Womyn2me says:

    By the way, I would disagree that most festie goers are anti WBW policy… there just has been no organized visible way to show support for WBW…

    my understanding is that at 2007 fest womyn will wear red wrist bands, similar to the “YellowArmbands” group that wears yellow in support of trans-inclusion…..

    dueling armbands should be entertaining….

  45. pd says:

    I expect Lois to intervene somehow. For all her, uh, hobbies, Lois does know the boundaries of safe and responsible behavior.

    On the technical side, this is the clearest online episode yet. The anti-aliasing is working just right.

  46. Quinn says:

    I’m so disappointed that you were taken in by this ruse. WBW saying no just doesn’t work, I guess; just like in the rest of society.

    Just another festie goer in favor of the WBW policy.

  47. Kelseigh says:

    Far as I can tell, the main support for WBW (which has no actual meaning other than “not a tranny”, and as far as I can tell didn’t exist until Lisa Vogel needed an excuse for expelling a woman from the women’s music fest) is a bunch of transphobic malcontents that hang around the MichFest BB politics forum. More and more trans women are becoming visible in their communities, and as a result more and more cisgendered women are finding that these women, who MichFest and the WBW supporters try so desperately to paint as “other” really aren’t so different after all, so why shouldn’t they, as women, be allowed into this really awesome women’s space.

    The answer of course, is Vogel & Co.’s transphobia, which even shouting “but I’m not transphobic, I just don’t want to be in contact with trannies” cannot hide.

  48. Sonya says:

    Raf and Stella dating? No way, they’re like brother and sister! The dinosaur nicknames are totally a sibling thing. However, I could see them growing closer over all the family drama they’re both experiencing, and then getting teased at school because they’re “in love,” and Raffi insisting that no they’re not, and then realizing that even though he really likes this girl, he doesn’t like her *that way* and then, despite his upbringing, having a little middle-schooler crisis over What Does That Mean. Ya know?

  49. Dykeasaurus says:

    I support the festival policy. I believe that being born femle, being raised female, and staying female is a valid identity. Occasionally I want to spend time with my WBW sisters. The rest of the time I am perfectly happy spending my time with any and all people that identify as women. We are not all the same, really, and that’s okay. We all have a right to gather with others that share a common experience.

  50. Blue says:

    I am glad that you are now aware that you had misinformation regarding the Michfest policy and look forward to seeing how you handle this new knowledge. I realize it makes sense for Lois to refer to it as “anti-trans” given her character but I think it is unfair for you to portray the Festival this way without having a character who has attended for years and supports the fact that WBW and Trans Women are different (not better or worse) and that this is the one and only place and space left on the planet (for one week a year) that is attempting to be exclusively for women who were born as women and continue to live as women. Festival is about making space for a specific group of women – it is not about being anti-trans. I have attended for 16 years and need that space and time with others like me. The rest of the year I spend time with everyone that I love – including many, many men and trans folks. If you are going to represent “dykes” I think you need to represent those of us who have attended for years and not just the ones who have not attended and have jumped on the bandwagen to accuse Lisa V and those of us who support the policy and being anti-trans. This is a tough topic and I don’t envy your position but please educate yourself more about the history of the Festival and both sides of the issue, not just the so-called “anti-trans” view point of all of this. Thanks…

  51. SC says:

    Sorry to see you got taken in by the bogus press release too. I don’t know why transfolk seem to think everything has got to be about them, especially when it comes to women and our need for defining and defending a totally lifelong social, cultural, spiritual & physical reality that is not shared by others, no matter how much they want it. Do they really think that erasing, co-opting and colonising women’s spaces & lives will somehow make them ‘real’ women? They must because they seem to think that we’re standing in the way of that.

    Yeah I’ll be sporting a red armband and red anything else I can get to wear. Hey, I live in Nebraska so that shouldn’t be hard!

  52. Riotllama says:

    The most rediculous part of that letter IMHO is, “Supporting womyn-born womyn space is no more inherently transphobic than supporting womyn of color space is racist.”
    you got your analagy all cock eyed, Lisa. Women of color, being an oppressed group within an oppressed group (that being women, if you’ll forgive the binarification of gender)have a lot more in common with transwomen (an oppressed group within an oppressed group [women]) So michagan trying to identify their WBW only policy with the oppression of my sisters of color doesn’t fly. the correct analogy would be:
    oppressive white dominated space is to women of color only space as Michigan women’s festival is to letting transwomen in, gadammit.
    Transwomen have the right to be respected and recognized as the women they are and let into the crappy festival if they want to go be nakid hippies in the woods.
    oh and to Condi- her name is Janis, not Jonah, get with the program. She isn’t spoiled, she knows who she is, what she wants, and how to get it. Isn’t that something we normally applaud in a teenager? How many of y’all out there knew you were big homos by the time you were 14/15? I did. Janis knows she is a woman. maybe if her mom lets her on hormones, she’ll have lived enough of her life as a “wommyn” to be allowed into Michagan.
    And by the way… just waht is lisa vogel’s definition of a “womyn” anyway? Is my friend who was born without a vaginal canal or uterus but has her ovaries and other female secondary sex charectaristics woman enough? Is my no-hormones, no surgery, breast binding friend who identifies as male and uses make hormones but hardly ever passes still a “wommyn”? What about my friend who outwardly appears male but has female reproductive insides and xx chromasomes? who gets to come in? My hella surgeried buddy who is so rediculously hairy and loves being male now? He was born a “womyn”. if he decided he was still a “woman” could he come in? what makes me a woman? is it because the people on the bus decide I am? What if they don’t? What if i get called sir? Why does gender have to be a binary, or a spectrum between a binary? in reality its a lot more magnificent and convoluted and complicated than that.
    To Quinn- “I’m so disappointed that you were taken in by this ruse. WBW saying no just doesn’t work, I guess; just like in the rest of society.”
    It seems like what you’re doing here is equating camp trans to “men” on the outside world who don’t listen when a “woman” says no. wow. thats some really harsh stuff and i think you need to check yourself. first off, umm who exactly are you calling men? transWOMEN? because if you just meant like how women of color get pissed when white women are blocvkign them from getting a piece of the pie (notice the correct analogy)then wouldn’t you agree its kind of fucked to keep saying no. and if you weren’t you just oughta crawl back in yr second wave cave until you get educated. Why should alison incorporate a WBW policy supported into the strip? She’s already got Cynthia to spout all the double speak conservative hate we need to deal with.

  53. Ellen O. says:

    I have incredibly mixed feelings about this topic. One the one hand, there are so many women at Michigan with such a variety of backgrounds that it seems as if being raised as a boy is just one more variation.

    One the other hand, Kate Bornstein (MTF) once said she didn’t feel like either a man or a woman anymore, and as such didn’t feel she should intrude on Michigan. On the third hand, that’s just Kate’s experience.

    My understanding is that many transwomen simply want to be seen as women and experience life as a woman (however one manages to define that) and where better to do that than at Michigan?

    Still, isn’t it typically male to insist you are entitled to occupy any space you want? Yet, even as I write that, by “typically male,” don’t I mean typically “white, upper-middle class, able-bodied, U.S. male”? Or do men from every culture tend to dominate that culture?

    When queer people insist that they are entitled to be in places that don’t always want them–army, clergy, schools, the NFL–I see that insistence as virtuous. So why do I have trouble when transfolk push for being included somewhere where an organizer doesn’t want them? Does it have to do with opressed peoples gnawing at each other instead of those truly in power?

    I wonder if any Female to Male transmen have ever tried to gain access to an exclusively male event?

    A Lesbian Quaker group I know of has come up with this compromise: they meet annually and every other year is open to transwomen. I guess that could be seen as balanced or only half as bigoted.

  54. Riotllama says:

    oh, and sc, they are real women, whatever that is. they are becasue they say they are. and no amount of years of being forced into dresses or playing with barbies in you years before puberty make you more of a woman. They live as *WOMEN* and get all the shit for it that you do and all the joy too. they just had to fight for it more.

  55. shadocat says:

    I just wanted to take a moment to thank Deborah for pointing out the obvious to me (I had assumed the paypal was for books, art work, etc.) Doh! I will donate in a timely basis from this date on! (Well, okay starting Friday when I get paid)

    Now I have two good excuses for not going to Michigan; A. I hate camping, and B. This stupid controversy.

    What makes a soman, a woman? I have no uterous, ovaries, eggs or cervex. Am I still a woman? My friend Mimi had a double mascetomy, plus she’s missing all the same parts as I am-Is she still a women? My cousin Becky, was having minor surgery, and they found a little undescended testicle! So does that make her a man?

    A fast food chiken commercial some time ago had a slogan that went something like this;”Parts Is Parts”. Now I am no academic like some of y’all, just a dumb ole girl from Missouri, but I see a lot of truth in that saying. Parts IS just parts really; what makes us wimmin, or womyn,, or womans, or even women lies deep in our hearts, our minds and our souls–not with the various plumbing and baby-makin’ parts that were dangling off us at out birth.

    I believe in love, and when you tell other women that “you didn’t get your stuff the same way I did ” is just plain old bigotry, and there’s no love in that.Now I’ve said enough and i’m going to bed,,because dammit,it’s LATE!,late,,,zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  56. Jaibe says:

    Wow, this is getting to be the most educational thing I read on the internet.

    I used to think having any woman-only clubs, meetings, whatever was fundamentally wrong. Fine to have meetings about feminism, but if you keep the guys out you are being as bad as they are.

    Then I went to one and realized there were people in the room who would never have spoken in any other space (this was in Scotland, incidently.) I am now of mixed feelings about this, because I think it is important for everyone to have space in which they are safe.

    I don’t see the big difference between banning men and banning transexuals. Both decisions are exclusive, and both give some people comfort. Men’s clubs were nice, comfortable & productive too but we have banned them because they were also the source of power and we have convinced the legal system that as such they were unfair. So my intellectual reaction is that it is hypocritical for us to ban others from our own meetings, given that we don’t let them ban us from theirs. But my gut reaction is that people should be free to make whatever associations they choose and find comfort where they can, and it is authoritarian and condescending to step in and tell them who they should & shouldn’t let in. And speaking of gut feelings, the response to seeing male genetalia is probably deeply hormonal and instinctive — people aren’t just upset because they haven’t freed their minds, they are upset because we are born animals and enculturated in a male society and there is no fast process of will that can change responses that result from these facts. Exposure is a form of sexual assault, and is illegal for good reason.

    But probably my intellectual response is the right one.

  57. Kelseigh says:

    Personally, I find it ironic in the extreme that we find a group of women, most of whom fancy themselves some sort of feminists, telling an even more disempowered group to basically sit down, shut up and not demand equal treatment. To say nothing of accusing them of “mannish” behaviour, a charge originally levelled at feminists to keep them in *their* place. Note how Jaibe equates excluding men with excluding trans women, it’s telling of the mindset.

    Let’s not even get into the idea of sending trans women to trans spaces and having a happy trans festival. Back to the kitchen, anyone?

    The Master’s Tools, indeed.

  58. Jaibe says:

    My bottom line was no one should exclude anyone, and that everything else is a slippery slope.

  59. Jaibe says:

    My bottom line was no one should exclude anyone, but I also acknowledged & validated people’s desire for safe zones. I really don’t think quoting people out of context is an example of good behavior, nor is associating any one gender with niceness. Not that I can find any prior mention of “mannish” behavior in this discussion.

    I actually expected to get flamed for criticising exposure, since people do that at ‘alternative’ stuff all the time & since it is also related to sexual liberation (but only indirectly to prejudices concerning sexual orientation). Honestly, I see multiple sides on that conflict too & would be interested in reading a discussion about it. But I didn’t expect to be flamed for having a posting inclusive of multiple points of view.

  60. Kathy says:

    “Camp Trans released the original press release stating that MWMF had recinded the WBW policy… the release was sent out with Lisa Vogel’s name and number at the top of it, so folks thought it was a MWMF press release”

    That’s simply not true. The press release header reads:

    Camp Trans Press Release

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    August 21, 2006
    CONTACT: Emilia Lombardi, 412-480-4032; Bryn Kelly, 614-352-4782
    http://www.camp-trans.org

    ——————————–

    “Then I went to one and realized there were people in the room who would never have spoken in any other space (this was in Scotland, incidently.) I am now of mixed feelings about this, because I think it is important for everyone to have space in which they are safe.”

    That’s exactly it and I know exactly how that feels. And as a transwoman, I need women only space just as much as any other woman. The lesbian community is my community, my home. And instead of being affirmed in that need, I’m told by one of the largest most definitive structures in lesbian society that I’m a “mutilated man” or “ugly monster”.

    Those are quotations from the MWMF message board. You can find things like that there any day of the year, year after year after year. It’s very hard to believe that the festival isn’t transphobic when it continues to support hate speech like that. (And yes, the boards are moderated. Those who post hate speech are allowed to stay. Those challenging the transphobia have been removed from time to time.)

  61. Maggie Jochild says:

    If you are going to use analogies, consider the power base of the groups you are referring to. In our culture, there are certain groups who are target for oppression — target means there are institutional systems in place to maintain that oppression which are NOT equally applied to those who are non-target. The power does not flow equally in both directions. Thus, the notion of “reverse racism” is completely bogus. Women of color resisting exclusion from an all-white gathering is a target group resisting oppression; white women trying to gain entrance to a women of color only event is not the same because the power that is conferred upon white skin in our culture IS the issue here and the white women are non-target for that oppression. Thus, they are the group in power. A group of women of color deciding to meet exclusively with one another are NOT aiming racism at white women, because the women of color are TARGET for racism, i.e., they do not hold the power. Lisa Vogel’s analogy is apt because she is equating women of color (target for racism) with women who were raised as women (target for sexism). Women are target for woman-hating, a.k.a. sexism. Those who are raised women, who spent their childhoods as girls and grow up into women and retain that identity, have a qualitatively different experience with regard to being targeted for sexism and woman-hating than any other group. Period. It can’t be faked or denied. And if sometimes we want to meet together, to find out what that feels like without having another group’s definition imposed on us, it is not phobia or exclusion or oppressive, it is FOCUS. We are not holding the power around gender in this culture, and any group who says we do are engaging in the ever-popular “blame the women” game of sexism. Since its inception (and I was there at the beginning), men have been trying to get into Michigan, to keep it from occurring, to fly over/take photographs/arrest women on the roads/sneak in through the woods. The definition of “womyn-born womyn” has been there since the inception as well, it was not created recently (do your homework). The notion of what “parts” you have defining your womanhood is a red herring — it doesn’t matter if you have a uterus, what matters is did you grow up with female conditioning as a womyn-born woman? If you did, and you want to identify as such, then this is the festival for you (and you will be sold a ticket, no questions asked). If you did not, or if you do not identify as a woman now, why the hell would you want to intrude? Why all this focus and upset about women defining themselves? Why all the hateful language? This intimidation tactic is simply not working. Trashing the women who take the time to write on the Michigan bulletin boards is not working. Sending out fake, deliberately misinforming press releases is not working. If the goal is to open the gates of Michigan to anyone who walks up and pays admission (and there is no other way to practically apply the definition of “admit anyone who self-identifies as female, even if it has just been for ten minutes”), then that goal is in direct contradiction with the founding principle of Michigan and it’s not about oppression, phobia, or any other slam, it’s about one group deciding to revise the self-definition of a target group without that group’s consent. It is by definition going to fail — if you alter the founding principles of Michigan, it will no longer be Michigan. And if the principles were/are to afford women who have had female conditioning and chosen to continue to self-identify as female the chance to gather together away from OTHER attempts to define them and instead consider what their own self-definition looks like — then going against those principles is anti-feminist and ignoring the rights of any target group to resist the power-over behavior of those who are non-target for that particular oppression.

    If you want to understand the complexities of target/non-target theory around oppression, check out the work of Ricky Sherover-Marcuse. It’s confusing in the U.S. because we have this myth of self-invention (especially around class) that is kept in place to keep us from understanding how oppression works. To use another analogy, if you were raised poor and are still living as a poor person, your class values and self-definition are going to be substantially different from someone who was raised with wealth and has now become poor, either by accident or design. We learned this class lesson the hard way during the 70s in the lesbian-feminist community, with downwardly-mobile women claiming to be “more working class” than women who really had been raised working class. It’s not about who wins the most-oppressed contest, it’s about how you were really raised and acknowledging the fact that conditioning is not shed overnight, it is not shed by acquiring a new wardrobe, and it is not altered just because you say so. It must be undone, step by step, to the same degree in which it was instilled in the first place. It takes a long time, it takes hard work, it takes living in a “nether zone” while you undo it, it takes honesty and not blaming others for how alone you feel, and it takes seeing a complicated truth. We don’t know how to do it around class, we don’t know how to do it around race, and we certainly don’t know how to do it around gender (and that if you choose to undo it at all, which is a choice people get to make for themselves without accusation as well). This argument about self-definition just proves how far we have to go.

  62. meg says:

    This is interesting, to say the least. To what extent does our history create us? Is there that big a gulf between the experience of women who are raised as female and women who are raised as male, but identify as female? Or women raised female who identify as male? Where do you draw the line?

    Using the race analogy, when does a person of color qualify as a “person of color”? What if they can pass, what if they are passing? What if they pass not deliberately but based on other’s perceptions of them?

    There are obviously quanitative differences in the experiences of women: differences of gender, class, religion, upbringing, sexual orientation, and color, to name but a few. My sister and I, of the same parents and raised in the same household, both “womyn-born-womyn”, are seen and treated by the world very differently based on our body types (ectomorph vs. meso/endomorph) – we had very different experiences of growing up, of dating, of what it means to be female. All of us do. As we also have great commonality in our experiences as women, a familiarity with experiences that men rarely seem to share.

    Where you choose to draw the line depends on your point of view, how we choose to divide ourselves – by color? by class? by sexuality? by gender? by body type? All of these factor into our experiences, and into our access to the dominent power structure.

    I understand the need and desire for ‘women only’ spaces, just as I understand the need and desire for ‘women of color only’ spaces, or ‘fat women only’ spaces, or ‘gay men only’ spaces; at the same time, I despair at the further division of our commonality.

  63. Kelseigh says:

    “If you are going to use analogies, consider the power base of the groups you are referring to.”

    This is exactly right. So if you look at women as an oppressed group, it is not right to look at trans women as part of the dominant group, but rather as a “mid-way” in a sense. So a nearer analogy would be to the period where mixed-race children were not accepted by the white community or people of colour alike. This is particularly apt given that in both cases, the group is excluded both from the dominant *and* oppressed groups.

    Not that I like that either, since it smacks of appropriation, although that doesn’t seem to bother Ms. Vogel in the least.

    I’d rather be straightforward. Women are being excluded from a women’s festival because of something physical and out of their control, and a large structure of justifications have been created to maintain that status quo. Pretty simple, hm?

    As to “womyn born womyn” as a term, does *anyone* have any information as to when it was coined? Given that prior to the “need” to exclude trans women, I would think the word “womyn” (or whatever spelling you prefer) would have been sufficient to separate you from men. Perhaps, if you don’t mind deferring to race analogies again, it’s like “white”, which has no real meaning beyond “not coloured”.

  64. Deb says:

    I remember seeing the phrase in the first edition “Our Bodies, Ourselves”. I believe I saw it in the Dykes of Amerika chapter but I may be wrong. That was over 30 years ago.

    Since I am trying to hurry off to work, let me throw this out there quickly. How do you think Mo or Lois or any of the DTWOF characters would respond to this thread?

  65. Kelseigh says:

    Hmm. I’ve been looking but I can’t find much about the phrase’s origins, and certainly nothing at all about it except in reference to trans exclusion.

    Of course when you look at the phrase itself, it’s hard to imagine it means anything other than “not trans”, because being transsexual or intersexed are the only ways for a woman to be born (physically) anything but a woman. To differentiate from men, all a woman needs to identify as is “woman”, so unless there’s a “not-woman” sort of woman to differentiate from, the phrase is nothing short of bizarre.

  66. Anonymous says:

    “If you are going to use analogies, consider the power base of the groups you are referring to”

    Are you seriously claiming that transwomen are a socially empowered group discriminating and disempowering non-trans women?

    Or are you just saying that you classify transwomen as part of the group men, not part of the group women?

    You also make say “Since its inception (and I was there at the beginning), men have been trying to get into Michigan, to keep it from occurring”

    Again, I’m not sure this has to do with what kind of women are welcome or not welcome.

  67. meg says:

    I’ve still got the venerable second edition of “Our Bodies, Ourselves”, and (on an admittedly quick scan) I don’t see the phrase.

  68. imogene dean says:

    on the first poster for the first michigan womyn’s music festival was the phrase: “for womyn born womyn, daughters of mothers…” or something along those lines. because womyn’s history is not readily found or documented (hmm…why is THAT?) you would have to go to the lesbian herstory archives in Brooklyn, or call them to confirm this. i have seen the poster, this much i know is true.

    the phrase was not coined to specifically exclude transwomen, and to say that is simply wrong.

    i don’t think anyone is claiming that transwomen are a socially empowered group.

    i think that this conversation is impossible to have if the fluidity of privilege is not had. and if we don’t recognize what that looks like, the point and need for MWMF doesn’t make sense.

    i’m black and i’m a dyke, and i’m jamaican-american so i won’t be appropriating anyone’s experience but my own when i say this. i was born in the US. my parents were born in jamaica. all of my early life was surrounded by jamaican people, eating jamaican food, etc. but i grew up surrounded by african-american people.

    i was “black.”

    just like all of us are “women.”

    however, i’m jamaican-american. the reason i am is because that was the world i knew all of my life. that is a world that i was fluent in. i understand patois. i also “understand” black-english. and can go there. and express myself more readily through that.

    if there was a moment when black people were gathering without non-black americans (and it has happened to me because there are different issues with blackness among our communities) i actually don’t get to be there. even though that is what i understand and that is where i grew up.

    not being able to go to a black american only group doesn’t make me less black. it makes me not a black-american person.

    same thing goes for light skinned black people and dark skinned black people. what does it mean to “pass”? what does it mean to have been able to go through the world sometimes being perceived as “white” as opposed to never having been seen as white as all? how does that affect how one is black?

    doesn’t change that both light skinned and dark skinned black people are black. it just changes the way they get there. and, it changes who gets to gather with whom.

    one thing it doesn’t change? that they aren’t white. and in their own ways they have to fight that struggle.

    seems to me that being WBW is an identity. one separate from being a straight woman, some kinds of lesbian. its about people who recognize and see how being born as, raised as, and currently identify as a woman looks and feels in our particular society.

    and it seems to me that until being born as, seen as and raised as a boy is NOT totally different from being born as, raised as, and seen as a girl, that is still a question we need to discuss.

    unless people here are arguing that boys and girls in the world are treated absolutely the same? or white people and black people? or rich people and poor people?

    we can’t erase difference because we didn’t identify with our differences.

    i understand that being a transkid is about never feeling ok with how the kid was being viewed and treated and named by society. but isn’t it the fact of the treatment (the fact that people said “you are boy” this is what you should be/do/think) exactly what may lead to some empathy to what the “you are a girl” does on the other side? when your whole world becomes limited to “good girls don’t…”?

    are we saying that too bad, so sad, but that women with a *particular* history of living in a body and being forced to be indoctrinated with “girl” in a way that was limiting and sexist shouldn’t matter?

    its not just as easy as “bigots!” “discriminators!” if we are going to have this conversation, let’s talk about the entire landscape.

    i don’t believe women no longer suffer from sexism yet, otherwise i would say that MWMF no longer needs to be. but until girls don’t have to suffer from sexism in our society, from the moment the doctor says “its a girl! put a garter on her head!” i think the space will be necessary.

    and we will also need space for our greater WOMEN’S communities for all of us to try to make this world a better space.

  69. anonymous says:

    I don’t feel strongly about the exclusion issue, but I *do* feel strongly that the debate should be based on accurate information. Here is what we know:

    1) Gender is not a continuum in the usual sense, like height or intelligence. The OVERWHELMING majority of people on the planet are unambiguously one or the other.

    2) There are people who are not unambiguously one or the other — people with XXX or XXY chromosomes, or who got exposed to unusual levels of male or female hormones in utero, or whatever. BUT, their existence doesn’t mean that gender doesn’t exist, any more than a few ambidextrous people mean that being left- or right-handed is an illusion.

    3) Gender, the concept, the idea that we carry in our heads, is NOT a cultural invention. We are biologically programmed to distinguish male and female. We are exquisitely sensitive to the most subtle cues of gender — tiny differences in bone structure, fat distribution, timbre (not just pitch) of the voice, the way the joints move, etc. These things leap out at us. This sensitivity is universal (occurs across all cultures) and is present from birth. People cannot learn to turn off their gender-detectors.

    What does all this mean for the debate? I don’t know. But I feel strongly that the debate should appeal to the known facts, not ideologically driven assertions.

  70. meg says:

    “We are biologically programmed to distinguish male and female. We are exquisitely sensitive to the most subtle cues of gender — tiny differences in bone structure, fat distribution, timbre (not just pitch) of the voice, the way the joints move, etc. These things leap out at us.”

    I had to laugh at this – I’ve not infrequently been perceived as male, which makes me wonder just how ‘exquisitely sensitive’ we really are to these differences. In Armenia, one of the most frequent questions I was asked (or overheard being asked about me) was: “Are you a boy or a girl?”

    I didn’t wear the common Armenian gender markers for women (make-up, heels, skirts or dresses); I didn’t have stubble or an Adam’s apple; and people were confused. In the winter, I could understand it – I was muffled in layers of clothing (though I thought they’d figure it out after talking to me for a half hour – ah, timbre and pitch don’t fail me now! – but they didn’t)- but in my summer tank tops!? Ok, I’m small, but not *that* bloody small! And the whole issue of body build…

    “Are you a boy or a girl?” and funniest of all, “It said it was a girl!*”

    *In Armenian, there is no gendered third person pronoun – instead of ‘she, he, or it’, you have ‘it’ (na). So, this really isn’t as funny as it sounds to American ears…

  71. ab says:

    No MEN! past, present, or future!

    Trans should go start their own festival.

  72. anonymous says:

    meg — So your particular body build doesn’t strongly trigger people’s gender-detectors. This doesn’t contradict anything I said.

    Actually, the fact that people are thrown by it, and work so hard to figure it out, just shows how accustomed we are to being able to tell automatically.

  73. shadocat says:

    What are we afraid of? That a bunch of straight guys are going to throw on mummus(sp?), sneak in the festival, ogle, molest, and generally harrass the WBW there? Come’on! How are they not”safe” among trans women?

    As far as build goes, my sister has a flat chest, no hips, and by the way, straight. She ia frequently mistaken for a man. That doesn’t make her one.

    When I first started my lesbian life, after years of trying to be a straight married woman,I was told that I was not a “real” lesbian. Several womwn told me this-also that because I was not butch enough, etc. etc. Those people were wrong. I know who I am.

    Those trans women know who they are. We have no right to discriminate against them as we were once disriminated against!

  74. --MC says:

    When a group starts insisting on the purity of its membership, I reach for my headphones.

  75. anonymous says:

    “if we are going to have this conversation, let’s talk about the entire landscape.”

    I like that statement.

    WBW are oppressed because of their gender from birth, and are conditioned, to one degree or another, to take on a societally sanctioned oppressed role from that moment on.

    MTF transexuals only take on the oppression of being a woman at some point in their transition. They did not grow up with this oppression.

    MTF’s are oppressed by living in a culture that has very little understanding of what it means to be transexual.

    WBW who chose to live their lives as women never experience the oppression of being transexual.

    We are talking about two different groups who are oppressed in different ways. Neither group has the *lived* experience of what the other group has experienced and continues to experience.

    I think there should be safe spaces for WBW and also for all people who identify as being a woman. I don’t know what the correct policy should be for any one particular space or event, such as the the MWMF. But this discussion is SO important, and each group will understand the other only after a listening to one another deeply and respectfully.

    I am a white, straight, married woman (WBW). I once participated in a women’s group which was about half white, half African-American. There was one MTF woman in the group. This person’s race, class, educational level, and professional acheivement gave her a much higher societal status than anyone else in the group. Plus the fact that she’d lived most of her life as a male.

    We wanted her with us, because she was someone we all liked. However, her presence did change the dynamic of the group, which made me uncomfortable. There was just a different quality of interaction whenever she came. We never talked about it in the group, and I think I personally would’ve been reluctant to express how I really felt about her presence (conflicted) because I would not have wanted to hurt the feelings of someone I cared about, and I would not have wanted to come across as transphobic.

    I’m not saying my reaction was right or wrong. It’s simply how I experienced this particular women’s group. We never figured out how to make the space safe enough to talk about what it meant to have WBW and MTF women in the same women’s group together.

  76. imogene dean says:

    shadocat — did i miss someone saying they were afraid? i didn’t see that.

    anonymous — thanks for what you have said here.

    and maybe things were different when the transwoman came to your group because of your own transphobia. maybe not.

    but my question is: how do we ever get anywhere on this subject if we don’t talk about what it means to be “perceived” as a white man? what it means to be “perceived” as a white woman? what it means to be “perceived” as a black man? and how that lived experience, the perception OUTSIDE OF YOUR head may influence the life you lead, your reactions, everything.

    so yes, i appreciate you seeing that because i feel like that is the first thing that falls out of this conversation about the policy. and i think it has to be the first thing to get inside the discussion.

  77. Kelseigh says:

    Speaking of perceptions, I’m finding myself a bit disturbed by something mentioned earlier by Maggie Jochild, who I hope doesn’t mind if I quote her.

    “…conditioning is not shed overnight, it is not shed by acquiring a new wardrobe, and it is not altered just because you say so. It must be undone, step by step, to the same degree in which it was instilled in the first place.”

    Following the debate on this issue, I see this sentiment on display fairly often, and it bothers me. The idea that transition is something done lightly, and in a superficial fashion, is a pervasive one. It’s also an inaccurate and ultimately damaging stereotype, painting transsexuals as little more than men flipping their gender orientation on a whim. The suggestion that transition is a frivolous, superficial act makes it much easier to dismiss transsexuals, a fact that I imagine would make it easier to justify trans exclusion.

    What’s missing from the discussion seems to be any serious consideration that internally, MtF transsexuals are *not* men, and do not socialize well as men in the first place. This isn’t a case of a male putting on a dress, but more a woman who’s been forced into a mold that doesn’t fit attempting to break out of that. The experience is not the same, on a very deep level, and it would be well for opponents of trans inclusion to take this into consideration.

  78. Womyn2me says:

    Kathyk it is true, the PR on the Camp Trans website has been appropriately altered… I have read the physical fax that came to my local GLBT organization….

    ***********
    “Camp Trans released the original press release stating that MWMF had recinded the WBW policy… the release was sent out with Lisa Vogel’s name and number at the top of it, so folks thought it was a MWMF press release”

    That’s simply not true. The press release header reads:

    Camp Trans Press Release

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    August 21, 2006
    CONTACT: Emilia Lombardi, 412-480-4032; Bryn Kelly, 614-352-4782
    http://www.camp-trans.org

  79. Anonymous says:

    Kelseigh, I am willing practically to guarantee that Maggie wasn’t talking about transitioning, but rather about each of us divesting herself of the inexorabilities of societal conformity.

    I hear what you are saying about the sort of “false” socialization you feel as a woman being treated like, “mistaken for,” if you will, a man by others. I feel a similar way insofar as I was always more or less in drag as a woman in society. The molds are similarly constrictive, not limited to transpeople by any stretch.

  80. Kelseigh says:

    Oh, I don’t disagree with any of that, Anonymous. I’m not about to guess at Maggie’s (conscious) reasoning, but it’s a theme that comes up over and over and over again among those arguing against trans inclusion, which is why it bothered me.

    As to the socialization, you’re right that strict gender roles aren’t good for anyone, but it’s a matter of degree, possibly even one of type. In the case of a transsexual, the gender role isn’t merely binding, it’s alien. Now when able to enter a more appropriate gender role (female, in the case of a MtF transsexual), that role may be merely binding, but at least it’s more appropriate, and by embracing feminism, as most transsexuals I’ve met have, we can *all* work towards making the gender roles work better.

  81. Kathy says:

    “Kathyk it is true, the PR on the Camp Trans website has been appropriately altered… I have read the physical fax that came to my local GLBT organization….”

    All I can say is that I am on the camp trans mailing list and I received one sent by Emilia to the list and it clearly identifies that the press release is from camp trans. And it clearly has the phone numbers of both Emilia and Brynn and not MWMFs.

    You will also find the original press release posted on the day of release at http://www.michfest.com/ubb/Forum4/HTML/000885.html where it also clearly identifies who it is from.

    There was no need for anyone to fake up a release because everyone believed the policy had been ended. We thought it was over and were looking forward to healing beginning. And the policy needs to end so we can start finding some healing. So people who think we’re all mincing makeup glopped and fashion obsessed “ugly monsters” can find out that we’re very much like all other women you might find at fest.

    One of the things you might find out if this horrid nightmare for the womyn’s community ends is how the negative images of women made us feel as women when we were growing up.

  82. shadocat says:

    Imogene dean,
    No one stated the word afraid, nor did I ever say that was ever said. But the phrase I read over and over is “feeling safe”. If one is not feeling safe, than I assume one feels a “sense of fear”, or maybe just plain old being afraid. As in being afraid of that new Arabic family that just moved in down the street. Or being afraid of that group of black teenagers on the corner. Or being afraid of a bunch of trannies taking over and ruining are “girl’s only” clubhouse.No one else said afraid, But I sensed it.

  83. meg says:

    the more I think about this, the more it seems to be, at its root, about *power*, and about who has access to that power. Or who had the ability to access that power.

    In general, men are automatically given more authority than woman, in our society. Whites are given more than people of color. Money talks; while the experiences of poverty are often discounted.

    Seen in this light, MTF transexuals can be seen as having had access to the dominant power structure, that sense of entitlement – whether or not they were grotesquely unhappy in their bodies and the gender role(s) imposed on them by society. They *passed*, or they could have. It could be argued that MTF transexuals grew up in that privilege – no matter how they may have felt, they had the keys to the kingdom of male power.

    But, again, I find myself asking where do you draw the line? What about my friend’s partner, who grew up female, is female, but has had a double mastectomy and takes male hormones? CJ shares the experiences of growing up female… is undisputedly still female… and yet, and yet…

    What about the power differentials between women of different classes or races? Do I have less in common with a MTF transexual of my same general background (class, education, race, and economic standing) than I do with a woman coming from an utterly different background? More?

    If we hope to move beyond being primarily defined by our gender, can we afford to perpetuate a gender based definition?

    I don’t have the answers, but they sure are interesting questions to think on!

  84. Maggie Jochild says:

    I appreciate all the thinking and discussion going on in this thread, I really do. Want to start with that.

    For me personally, as a white raised-poor woman-born woman who is now 51, I came up through the lesbian-feminist movement and have learned useful lessons. One analogy I go back to often is my experience as someone who was raised non-target in the area of race and of Christianity. I was raised Southern Baptist but rejected Christianity at age 13 (not just Christianity, but also deism for a long time). When I returned to believing in god, it was through Judaism. Most of my lovers and closest friends have been Jewish. Over the decades, I have come to think of myself as more Jewish than anything else. However, in 1982 when the first Jewish Feminist Conference in San Francisco was organized, I found myself to be considered a “non-Jew” by most of the women I knew and loved. My girlfriend at the time wanted me included in the conference, and was furious about it, but I had enough beloved friends look me in the eye and say “I love you, but you are not a Jew — not by my definition, not in the way I am” that I took a long, hard look at identity politics. If there is ONE member of a target group who does not want you in that group because she/he wants to deal, at that point in time, only with other members of the target group, then decency and respect demands that you find a way to be an ally instead of demanding inclusion. I “felt” like a Jew but that was based on MY interpretation of what being a Jew meant, not on the shared interpretation of all or most Jews.

    Likewise, the construct of race is brutal for all who encounter it. It is brutally hard on white people. It is dehumanizing. But the experience for people of color comes with the additional experience of being target (which at times is a life-or-death issue, just as it is for women) and therefore my pain around racism is simply not close enough to give me the right to intrude on people of color space when they are choosing to gather on the issue. As a white ally working against racism, I have yet to meet a white person who says they “feel white”, grew up agreeing with the constructed identity or believing it was “normal”. In fact, we can seldom coherently talk about the experience of “whiteness” at all, not in the way various peoples of color have talked about their experience as target. This difficulty in comprehending the imposed gulf between our experiences I think carries over to gender — feeling “dysphoric” about your gender is common to all genders and does not mean you are “the wrong gender” in any way. You can choose that identity, if your wish, but in my experience being “female” was the “wrong gender” not because of biology but because of how the larger culture defined it. Rather than accept their definition, lesbian-feminism said a big fuck you and said “however I look or behave, that’s how a woman looks or behaves”. Ironically, the best lesson I got in this area was every year at Michigan, where the commonality of having been raised as girls, the breathing room of not having male definitions right up in our faces, gave us the chance to take a look at the incredible diversity and say “wow, women look like that?” and begin to focus not on the package but the internal conditioning. You can’t undo the conditioning until you know what it is. And you can’t know what it is if you don’t have the chance to disentangle it from male definitions of who we are. Every social group who is target for oppression and tackles self-definition uses separatism as one of their tools. It is not a “phase” that “clear thinkers” or a new generation moves beyond, it’s part of an ongoing process that will need to be available as long as targeting groups based on identity occurs.

    It’s true that much targeting occurs around issues of appearance. But this is not universal, and the solution is never a change in appearance. While I know transfolk who have moved beyond the surgical solution facile answer, still, even in this comic strip (or perhaps especially here, because Alison is a visual artist, natch) what someone looks like becomes the defining element, and transition is considered/put forth by many as something that is like instant karma. You get the right to define it for yourself, of course, but others have the right to make their own definitions about their identity, and if their definition of “woman” conflicts with yours, you are not facing “exclusion”, you’re facing a profound difference of opinion that you need to respect as such because it is not coming from the non-target group at you, it is coming from the target group you hope to join.

    It has been my experience that any time a woman who was raised as a woman and has chosen to retain that identity tries to express her discomfort at certain kinds of sharing with someone who is outside her chosen identity, she has been labeled as “oppressive” (it used to be by men; now it is some transfolk and other women-born women) because she is not “making it possible for us all to just be together”. Since one of the major pieces of conditioning expected in our culture of women is that we do all or most of the work of “making it possible for us all to just be together” without non-target groups feeling “bad”, then I have a strong visceral response to that expectation being laid at my doorstep. The lies and divisions that exist among us are not of my creation or perpetuation, but naming them and encouraging target groups to use various means of self-identification/self-exploration is not perpetuating the status quo. I don’t get to make that judgment call and neither do you. The slander aimed at women who raise this issue (which, again, I appreciate is NOT occurring to any major degree on this particular thread) has created a silence that is painful and not a sign of agreement. I have read treads on the CampTrans bulletin boards and at other sites (American Boi, FtM come to mind) where people compile “enemies lists” whose only names are those of lesbian-feminists; where the favorite epithet aimed at lesbians who want women-born-only women space is “fat” and “ugly”; and where no voice was ever raised in opposition to this kind of overt woman-hating. Again, the power dynamic is key: If a target group needs a place to discuss how they feel about the oppression of the non-target group (for instance, if working-class women want to discuss their feelings about middle and owning-class people), their language is not “hate speech” per se and does not fall into the same category as members of a non-target group writing/talking about the target group. Check the power flow. The Michigan bulletin boards are set up for women-born-women to discuss among themselves their feelings on various issues; if you hop onto those boards and you are NOT a member of that group, what do you think you should expect from the women having a discussion among themselves? Comparing this to the woman-hating on other threads being done among people who do not self-identify as women is disingenous, I think.

    I am participating in the raising of a male child; his mother is a heterosexual drag king, so he has access to a wide spectrum of gender options. Still, when he began complaining that he didn’t like being a boy, our first response was not to find him hormones or a change of clothes. We asked him what he saw girls getting to have that he was not, and we began changing/continue to change his access to options so he doesn’t have to try to cram himself into a box. For me this was personally important because I am multiply disabled and experience disability as a medicalized oppression, and I know fucking well that Western medicine’s definition of bodies is criminally distorted, incomplete, and profit-driven. One of my disability is PCOS, which means I have a severe hormone imbalance. Guess what? They cannot treat it (except by surgical removal of my ovaries) because they don’t actually know what a normal hormone balance looks like. So when these same people being offering to tinker with our hormones to make us “male” or “female”, well, I am skeptical to say the least. I would, as a parent, never allow a child of mine to be given life-shortening chemicals in the name of somehow encouraging them to use this route as a means of altering others perception of them. I would instead fight for their right to be perceived as they wish to be perceived on a social basis. That’s my personal choice, not one I’m advocating for others, although as a parent I do have to make that kind of (adultist) decision for my child up to a certain age, just as I have to make decisions about surgeries and other invasive treatments.

    Thanks for everyone’s attempt to discuss this without name-calling and for taking risks.

  85. sara says:

    the fest is wbw-only.
    the most obvious resolution to this cliffhanger is that lois and jasmine sit jonas down and help him find strength in his male body while also helping him understand that fest is not for him, but for us.

  86. --MC says:

    Absolutely. “Jonas, because you’ve chosen who you want to be, you are welcome neither here nor there.”

  87. anony says:

    I’m so tired of this discussion, and still I can’t help but jump in.
    I grew up at MWMF. Literally. All but 3 years of my life I have been there. It’s my home, and my heart, and what keeps me together the rest of the year.
    This conversation, as I have heard it repeatedly for the last 10 years, just pisses me off. After this past summer especially, it has become so very clear that it’s not a discussion. Regardles of how many big words are used, or how eloquently people organize their rebuttle, it’s an argument. Two sides, neither actually lsitening to or absorbing what the other has to say. And of course there are exceptions, but among the thousands of people speaking to this I have seen/heard, they are few and far between. One major exception is Lisa Vogel, and it makes me SO sad to read people’s reactions to the MWMF press realease.

    I have had a lot of personal struggle with the issue as well. I’m very strongly allied to many trans communities. But that does not necessarily mean that I support trans inclusion at the festival. Having been in women’s spaces that are trans inclusive, I have often felt my voice, and other women’s voices, drowned out by those of our FtM sisters. Because socialization DOES make a difference, regardless of how incredibly difficult it is to transition, to grow up uncomfortable in your body – a feeling every woman in the world knows quite well, to be outcast in a very unique way from the societal “norm.” But the thing is, there are MANY women-only spaces in the world, and many that are trans inclusive. So WHY ON EARTH is there so much fuss about Michigan?

  88. Kelseigh says:

    I’m sorry, I’m such a simple soul. When I see a large group of women separating themselves from a small group of women, I tend to think of that as excluding the small group, rather than including the majority. I’m funny that way.

    Maggie, I’m bothered by that whole last paragraph of yours, to be honest. It seems to be more of what I said earlier, chalking up transition as nothing serious, just a little discomfort with gender roles. Going by your words, which mirror a lot of those I’ve seen defending WBW policies, it seems you don’t really buy that transsexual women *are* women, just men who’d be perfectly happy to live as men if only the gender roles were more relaxed. Which, as a trans woman myself, I can honestly say is not the case.

    You know, when someone says they need to separate for healing, I’ve got to wonder what they’re separating *from*. And taking a look at that pervasive attitude, it seems the answer is “men”, and transwomen are tossed into that category too, because in the end, we’re not seen as women. At least, not real ones.

    I blame Janice Raymond. Or society. Whatever.

  89. Kelseigh says:

    Honestly, anony, it’s not the festival per se as far as i’m concerned. It’s the subtle, virulent, but ultimately transphobic attitudes that underly the support given to the festival’s policy. Because they affect far more than the festival itself, being taken by others who want to keep trans women out of women’s spaces, and even in some cases domestic violence shelters and other needed services.

    It’s about fighting, or at least exposing, phobic attitudes wherever they’re found. Michigan has become a lightning rod for this particular fight, but it could easily have been elsewhere.

  90. shadocat says:

    Just once I wish I could post on this site w/o misspelling a word or making a typo. Maybe this will be the day??

    I would think that if you are feeling dominated or controlled in a group that includes MtF trans persons,perhaps it is because you cannot bring yourself to see the person as anything other than “male”, therefore allowing yourself to be “dominated” by “him>”

    As for Janis/Jonas; You can’t be serious! “you have
    CHOSEN who you want to be? Learn to find strength in your male body? What a load of bullshit! Did you “choose” to be lesbian? I can’t imagine Lois saying such cruel words to a child she loves!!

  91. --MC says:

    If the above was about my post re Janis, I WAS being ironic.

  92. Sir Real says:

    Gosh! Bold moves here AB!!! (and the posting looks great, very legible)

    I’m hoping that Janis was indulging in a little teenage melodrama when stating she’s taking street hormones. Due to the knowledge and connections she’s very likely gotten at Camp Ten Trees and on the internet, she would very likely know how to order them via the web. Indeed, for me, a simple googling came up with information as to where to get them (without prescription), dosages, administration, and cautions from informed trans users and/or physicians…

    But I guess one question is how _would_ she pay for them? I don’t think she has a credit card, and Mom would certainly notice a few extra charges on _her_ account! And even if she has the money, and mailed out a money order, she would need a trusted confederate for a mailing address. Which she could have, after all, we only see brief snippets of her life in the strip.

    And she might have a part-time job. And not nessesarily in sexwork. I can’t help thinking it might be, I mean, it looks like (on quick calculation) that anti-androgens could cost at least $100 a month. Whoo. It’s a pervasive stereotype that transwomen only do sexwork, but heck, that is for a reason – so few other jobs are open!

    I’m all for _adults_ who are in these lines of work, (and I have some expensive dentistry-among other plusses- to show for my own lapdancing & handjob giving experiences!) But I hope to heck that Janis has been raking leaves or knitting or painting houses or babysitting or something, for her own sake, anyone under 25 is probably too young! OK, yes, I’m a bit ageist :)

    It is a bit of a quandry – I’d love to see what DTWOF does with that topic. The work of selling sex… in all its complicated, so often ambivelent glory/horror/humor/grimness. Just the sort of thing that Alison Bechdel does so well!

    But the stereotype of a `black tranniegirl prostitute’ is so previlent, and at the same time informed and nurturing depictions so rare… pretty much only seen in mass media, for example, as the victim of a crime. Well in short, I’d rather that Janis did not make the money thru sex – I want to see other images of how such a person can live, make a living, and thrive… How about it, AB ;)

  93. SomeRandomTransgirl says:

    Maggie Jochild wrote:

    “I am participating in the raising of a male child; his mother is a heterosexual drag king, so he has access to a wide spectrum of gender options. Still, when he began complaining that he didn’t like being a boy, our first response was not to find him hormones or a change of clothes. We asked him what he saw girls getting to have that he was not, and we began changing/continue to change his access to options so he doesn’t have to try to cram himself into a box. For me this was personally important because I am multiply disabled and experience disability as a medicalized oppression, and I know fucking well that Western medicine’s definition of bodies is criminally distorted, incomplete, and profit-driven.

    So when these same people being offering to tinker with our hormones to make us “male” or “female”, well, I am skeptical to say the least. I would, as a parent, never allow a child of mine to be given life-shortening chemicals in the name of somehow encouraging them to use this route as a means of altering others perception of them. I would instead fight for their right to be perceived as they wish to be perceived on a social basis. That’s my personal choice, not one I’m advocating for others, although as a parent I do have to make that kind of (adultist) decision for my child up to a certain age, just as I have to make decisions about surgeries and other invasive treatments.”

    Speaking as one of the most privileged transwomen I know (mostly because I had such totally, incredibly, amazingly supportive parents who loved me without condition or political agenda and who helped me with stuff like medical access I desperately wanted)…

    ::shiver & sympathy::

    Maggie, I hope to god that child isn’t trans because if he turns out to really be a she, you’re going to have laid a worse mindf**k on her than even the christians do with various kinds of queer children.

    This is what freaks me out about MichFest’s “inclusion of only WBW”… it’s not really just “a week in the woods”… it’s the maintenance (by *leftists* no less) of a system of meaning inscribed by outsiders on the bodies and choices of transfolk that hurt us when spread through the culture (into nooks and crannies of the culture, like parenting decisions and insurance coverage and on and on…) to mess with the lives of young people in need.

    (And yay for hormones off the net for helping to balance the power equation. :-P)

  94. imogene dean says:

    SRT said:

    “This is what freaks me out about MichFest’s “inclusion of only WBW”… it’s not really just “a week in the woods”… it’s the maintenance (by *leftists* no less) of a system of meaning inscribed by outsiders on the bodies and choices of transfolk that hurt us when spread through the culture (into nooks and crannies of the culture, like parenting decisions and insurance coverage and on and on…) to mess with the lives of young people in need.”

    i’m not following how you get from MWMF to “inscribing meaning on the bodies of outsiders.”

    it seems to me that people are looking at the meaning that was transcribed on their own bodies in a political culture of white, heterosexist, patriarchy. because that is the world we are all functioning in.

    so children assigned as girls, and raised as girls, are also having things inscribed on their bodies and choices (not to mention the abortion debates that rage on and constantly limit the choices that WBW have on their own bodies).

    since this is a process that happens to us all, just differently, how do we face this *process*? do people who have that inscribed differently get to celebrate surviving that process? is the acknowledgement of that difference inherently transphobic?

    i am interested in knowing that because if it is, i’m not sure how we go forward…?

  95. tallie says:

    much thanks to spark forever ago for correcting my embarrasing name situation. damn my head.

    i am pro having trans women in michigan, because i am pro having transwomen in all feminist spaces. i think feminism needs transpeople and transgender theory.(and visa versa).

    okay, here’s a story.
    until recently i lived with a 27 year old transwoman, let’s call her C, who had just gotten her vaginoplasty. she was diagnosed with gender dysphoria at sixteen, which allowed her to have insurance cover her medical expenses. she’s straight, she isn’t a feminist, and has never had sex with another woman. so here she is, at twenty-seven, with a vagina, and with NO idea how to operate one. she didn’t know where her clit was, how to get herself off, anything.

    now. i think that some women on this board would say that that is PROOF that women-born-women are different then transwomen, that it means something to have a vagina since you were born, etc. etc.

    but think about it. HOW MANY WOMEN DON’t KNOW WHERE THEIR CLIT IS????? how old were you when you started masturbating? how are women told about their cunts?
    i did what any responsible feminist should do, which is give her a copy of sex for one, by betty dodson. which C loved, by the way, and immediately became an advocate for masturbation. she started reading all my other feminist works, and loved them too, and is now awakening to this other part of her, this strong feminist woman. i love it, because i think feminism really is for everyone.

    but to tell you the truth, i dont give a shit about the festival. i care about creating feminist spaces, and the hard, shitty, challenging work that is coalition building. as a young, iraqi, jewish, dyke, THERE IS NO SAFE SPACE. in an extreme example, the safe space for jews came at the expense of palestinians. once we accept that we can start talking revolution.

  96. oh wow says:

    Great strip! Evil Comments!

    As a transsexual woman, I can say without question that the presence of a transsexual woman changes the dynamic of the group. Most people think we’re icky! And our lives drive us nuts (not that a lot of us weren’t there to start with).

    As a transsexual woman, I can say without question that there are very few rape crisis centers or homeless shelters for people like me. The MWMF policy and the associated rhetoric is a big, big part of that. The lives of my sisters are more important than your comfort or desire to split hairs or wear dueling armands. I have a good deal of anger there, but why expel it on the lovely DTWOF page (either way)? I LOVE this comic strip and Alison works very hard on the issues in a way that seems to possess grace and courage. Blog space is free. Djeez.

  97. tallie says:

    OH and another thing. wasn’t there some controversy around women of color at michfest? how the experiences of being born a woman of color was fundamentally different then being born a white woman. and what happened? instead of going off and having two different festivals, there are now workshops about race and racism and a woman of color tent.
    so of course “woman born woman” is a valid gender identity. of course there are differences between women. (transwomen and non-transwomen, women of color and white women, disabled women and able-bodied, etc.) instead of excluding women who have a “different YET VALID” gender identity, why don’t we just add to the workshop list? when did “seperate but equal” become a feminist statement?

  98. silly tranny boy says:

    Uhm, yeah ” have often felt my voice, and other women’s voices, drowned out by those of our FtM sisters. ” FtM’s are not your sisters. We are boys. Just wanted to say…

  99. riotllama says:

    oh and maggie, yr child said that they didn’t like being a boy. which is very very different from saying, “im a girl.” which is what many trans-kids (and janis) said.
    and speaking as a jew, i think it was wrong for you to not get to attend that conference if you identified aas a jew. There are so many varied definitions of what makes one a jew throughout the various shades of jewish belief that i am offended by your “friends” who would take it upon themselves to tell you you weren’t when you said you were. Who set up their definiton as the correct one?
    And i think it’s telling that all those websites where you mentioned reading such misogynistic comments are all ftm sites.
    I guess those “womyn-born-men” just forgot where they came from huh?
    A rock of the horns to kelsiegh, shadowcat and imogene dean who are saying stuff i think about but in a way more intellegent way.

  100. riotllama says:

    I’m so happy i now know that there is no gendered third person pronoun in armenian. Can I explain that without useing exclamtion marks?
    Imogene Dean- I think theres some acedemic theory behind what yr saying called the pop-bead theory: that every peice of our experience is like a different colored pop-bead, making everybody who thinks they might share soem large overarching identity politic actually have a very different colored pop-bead necklace from those they thought they were the same as. I read it in high school and i dont remeber who wrote it as that was at least 10 years ago, but i know it was a woman of color explaining why just being a “woman” didn’t give her the same ground as white women were on. It really changed the way i looked at things. So I agree with you totally on the point that transwomen have a very different experience of growing up as women, but that it is still the experience of a “WOMAN”. in the wrong body.
    And MWF seems to have worked out the huge S&M controversy that was raging, 10…15? years ago. Weren’t S&M pratitioners being labled as misogynist and violent towrds women? Weren’t they almost banned? Now people’s thoguhts have come around and I’m hoping the same thing will happen eventuallly in the case of transwomen.

  101. riotllama says:

    clarification: I don’t know what went down with the S&M controversy. those weren’t rhetorical statements but actual questions.

  102. Kathy says:

    “And MWF seems to have worked out the huge S&M controversy that was raging, 10…15? years ago. Weren’t S&M pratitioners being labled as misogynist and violent towrds women? Weren’t they almost banned? Now people’s thoguhts have come around and I’m hoping the same thing will happen eventuallly in the case of transwomen.”

    I hope so too. I think the difficulty is that we have been banned so that natural organic process of either acceptance or rejection could never go forward.

    The big issue is since we’re now only unwanted and not banned, what to do? Really, the more we integrate the more people will realize that we’re just another group of dykes, pretty much like the other few thousand women there. But at the same time, there are people who have real emotional investment in hating us, and the reprisals from them are going to be really difficult for everyone.

  103. Amy says:

    tallie, I really liked your comment “there are no safe spaces.” I went to a highly-regarded women’s college to get away from misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia at my co-ed high-school. At my women’s college, I submerged my identity as a bi-dyke because the queer community there was very lesbian-identified. I also avoided interacting with males of any kind whenever possible, which just reinforced my heterosexual mom’s views that men are not to be trusted or respected. Was this a safe space for me or anyone else at that college? Well, at the time, I thought it was a wonderfully safe space. Maybe it was what I needed at the time, I don’t know. I do know that I am now so much happier out in an “unsafe,” messy world full of folks of every gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, political bent, etc, than I ever was in that “safe space” where women came down hard on each other for stepping a toe off the line of political correctness.

    I guess real safe spaces such as they are talked about by institutions like my college and MWMF don’t exist in my mind, either. I am not sure that safety built on excluding someone based on a trait they were born with, that is not inherently harmful to others (some psychologists would argue, “sociopaths are born that way”, is real.

    However, I do not care to impose this view on others who feel differently. Maybe different people need different things at different times. Maybe I would not feel so great about working with heterosexual men or confronting racism or accepting other political views than my own, if I had not experienced the highly regimented safe space of my college.

    Peace, Amy

  104. Anonymous says:

    riotllama–I think you may be thinking of Elizabeth Spellman’s _Inessential Woman_.

    “One’s gender identity is not related to one’s racial and class identity as the parts of pop-bead necklaces are related, separable and insertable in other `strands’ with different racial and class `parts’” (Spellman 1988, 15).

    Does that sound right?

  105. Hypatia says:

    I’ve never been to Michigan, so I don’t have a sense of the on the ground dynamics. It seems clear, though, that women (however they got to be women) should be welcome in women-only spaces. If there are questions around nudity and physical comfort (some women who have suffered abuse or for whatever reason might be uncomfortable around pre-op women’s bodies), perhaps some sort of space could be set aside within the fest for pre-op women. Or something. The point is, there should be ways to make people feel safe without excluding women who deal with the same everyday shit as “WBW.”

    As a young dyke (27), I suppose the question which I find more interesting or relevant is that of FTM and genderqueer dudes, who often (though certainly not always) transition from within a queer women’s community and remain connected (romantically or socially) to that scene. I love transmen. They’re hot. They’re taking a great leap of faith into a different social code for the sake of their sanity, their heartbeat, and also, sometimes, a sense of adventure. I’m grateful to have been born a woman, and don’t want it any other way, but the example of the transmen in my life reminds me that I’m free–reminds me of the possibilities in my own life for, on a smaller scale, self-fashioning and re-invention.
    Given this, it seems sad and even ridiculous to me to have lesbian events that exclude transmen. At the same time, however, transmen are men, and the same old fucking problems of gendered dynamics, male priviledge, and sexism *do* sometimes raise their ugly heads. Certainly a festival like Michigan that was designed as separatist would want to exclude transmen–who are men, whatever their connections to the dyke scene.

    Aaaanyway, kids, let me recommend as an alternative to all this hoo ha Homo a Gogo! The raddest queer music fest e-ver, located in the gorgeous pacific northwest, in Olympia Washington, birthplace of the rriot grrl revolution. Homo a Gogo is run by a dedicated, talented and wonderfully sweet transman Ed Varga. I went for the first time this year and had a rockin’ good time. Part of what made it so exceedingly rockin was that queer women and transfolk made up the strong majority of the fest, making it feel strong and feminist and fabulously hell raising. At the same time, straight women and bio dudes (gay and straight) felt welcome, and, for example, two straight guys and a straight woman (my rad friend Jenny) did a ton of work in the recording studio.

    Ssssoooo, there’s my two cents. Thanks, as ever Alison. I’ve been a fan since age 14. (also, did you watch that documentary transgenerations? the issue of street hormones also came up there)

  106. imogene dean says:

    wow. it is really intense to realize that your assertions are totally ignored for what people want to hear.

    i don’t recall anyone talking about safe space, or feeling afraid.

    as a black dyke, i also see that as an impossibility.

    but i also see the real support and seriousness of lived experience as helping someone COPE with the idea of not being safe.

    big umbrella, many people underneath it. of course the big umbrella is us all, as women, as feminists. of course.

    but how do we deal and how do we discuss and how do we process as a COMMUNITY where we stand underneath that umbrella? all the lines that take us back and forth?

    should we lump all People of Color in together all the time? go black folks get to separate away from asians? do south asians get to separate away from east asians? do africans get to separate from black americans? do their individual experiences (not identical experience, but a shared experience) of individual TYPES of people of color get to be celebrated independently? if not, why not? if so, why?

    since its be raised what about jews in the diaspora? does it mean something to grow up orthodox as opposed to non-religious? hasidic as opposed to other branches of orthodoxy? a jew born in israel as opposed to the states? can jewish folk gather around their lived experience as a particular kind of jew?

    and if so, why is that not applicable to the community of women? all of us who face oppression AS WOMEN in a sexist, misogynist culture? there are a lot of ways to be a woman. straight, WBW (which i submit is a political identity), lesbian, fat, mother, cancer survivor, trans, of color.

    don’t lesbians get to gather away from all the other tribes? don’t moms get to gather away? don’t people get to gather on the basis of their lived experiences?

    this is the part i don’t understand.

  107. Kelseigh says:

    Actually, Imogene, your analogy works better if you suggest a gathering of People of Colour, but Asians aren’t allowed. Everyone else, regardless of background. But no Asians. Or Hispanics. Or American Blacks. Or whatever, you get the idea.

    What we’re dealing with here is an attitude of justifying a space where all women are welcome, regardless of background, creed, sexual orientation, nationality, or whatever, except one small group, who aren’t considered woman enough. This isn’t a celebration of a particular kind of woman. It’s a celebration of women *except* a particular kind.

  108. Sister in Struggle says:

    Hi. I’m a 40 year-old lesbian, I have been to fest many times in the past. My younger sister is a brand-new transwoman. She came out 5 years ago. My family and I took a long time to come to terms with her transition and I, as an older lesbian kind of set in my ways of thinking, took even longer than my parents. I stopped going to MichFest when I started a buisness with my partner and couldn’t afford the money or the time to go back, though I do miss it so. All I know is that my sister was born a woman, in her spirit. She was always beated up at school for being effeminate and just the way she walked and talked gained her nothing but contempt from those who would have lent her privilage. She has had to struggle so hard. She has been assaulted twice because of her outward appearence and the police have never braught charges on her assailents. Her friend, another transwoman, was denied enterance in a domestic violence shelter because she was trans. She had no where else to go and had to quit her job and move to another city. Transwomen are in men’s prisons, not allowed in female ones, ever, anywhere. Transwomen are routinely refused services health clinics. These women are not the oppressors. My sister is not a man, she is not an oppressor. She is just a woman who loves Holly Neer. Her life is a woman’s life. Camp Trans may be controversial and may have been combative but Camo Trans is changing, as is MichFest itself. I am not saying that my sister’s experience is every transwoman’s experience, but the fact remains that she is not welcome in my favorite women’s space in the world. This makes me deeply sad for my movement, my fellow gray-haired feminists who cannot see beyond what they know and remember compassion. I try and stay out of this political stuff, but I love DTWOF and happened upon this conversation and had to put in my two cents.

  109. DeLand DeLakes says:

    Golly. Quite an intense forum for this strip. I have never been to the Festival (due to an aversion to gooey folk music and being naked in front of strangers). I just wanted to comment that I think that Cynthia is by far the most challenging character Alison has ever come up with in the strip, and really keeps things juicy. This does not change the fact that I want to stab her to death with a rusty meat fork every time she appears in these panels.

  110. Wendy says:

    I think there is a difference between the oppression of trans women and the oppression of women who have never been male.
    When trans women are oppressed, and they are oppressed, their oppression is the oppression of men. It has not been talked about here, but I think it is important to mention. Boys and men are targeted by society (not by women) by a brutal oppression. Men and boys who step out of their assigned gender roles are taunted, harrassed, shunned, and physically hurt. Men are expected to endure pain, give up their lives in war if necessary, work until they drop and never complain. This is not useful for anyone, and has led to a lot of problems in society as a whole.
    Obviously trans women, who are born male and then transition into being women endure some of the worst forms of men’s oppression. And we should be very respectful of them and understanding of what they have had to endure, and of the bravery they have shown in making a transition from being a boy to being a girl (or a man to a woman).

    I believe that the oppression of boys is different from the oppression of girls, and that there is value in people who have been raised as girls to gather together. Just as it is important for boys and men to come together to try to work through the craziness of their upbringing. And for trans women, who have traded the oppression of men for the oppression of women.

    Michigan Women’s Festival, as a celebration of women seems like a perfect place for trans women. Michigan Women’s Festival as a place where women can come to truly notice the terrible oppression that girls and women face – or perhaps to pretend it is gone for a few days – is not going to be a great place for trans women, unless they have a lot of attention for women who are in this spot and can respect what they need. It appears that they have very little attention for women in this place, at least the ones who are trying so hard to get into Michigan. To be fair, many of the women at the Michigan Festival don’t have any attention at all for the oppression men and boys endure, and so by extension they have no attention for what trans women go through. Trans women endure the worst type of oppression that men can face only to fall into the oppression of women.

    Remember the DTWOF where Clarice was in the waiting room of their therapist and when Toni comes in she says “this world could be a paradise, and we’re making it a hell” and Toni takes her comment about the state of the world to heart and gives Clarice this big kiss? It’s like that.
    We could all show so much more kindness towards each other – this world could be a paradise.

    -Wendy

  111. Maggie Jochild says:

    Thanks, Imogene Dean, for pointing out the lack of listening that is beginning to occur. I am particularly aware of the “straw man” kind of arguing that is so popular with the rightwing currently, where they create the statement that someone else is supposed to have said (but never actually did), then argue with that instead of what was actually said. There is currently a great link on the web, satirical, about how to make sure nobody can ever talk with you intelligently about racism, which outlines some of these obfuscating and emotionally dishonest maneuvers at
    http://coffeeandink.livejournal.com/607897.html.

    No one claimed the need to gather together to discuss self-identity is a request for safety or healing.

    I never said transwomen are not women. I said women-born-women have a radically different socialization and personal experience than any other group and sometimes we want to express that among ourselves, figure out what that means without input from other groups, because we are specifically target for sexism in a way that no other group matches exactly.

    I never said I was an essentialist. I don’t believe gender is biologically determined, however you define gender(s). Leave room for a differing viewpoint, please. If gender is a construct instead of biology, then it’s about conditioning, not hormones. (Just like race.) I also believe my lesbianism is a choice, not congenital. I don’t care if you agree or not unless I’m creating a group to focus on that issue, and then I get to choose who I associate with as a lesbian.

    I think accusing me of possibly perpetrating a mindfuck on a child is a despicable thing to say, especially since nowhere in my post did I say he wanted to be a girl — he wants access to things he sees girls having, and he fucking well deserves to have that direct need addressed without us giving him chemicals and narrow boxes instead. I define my gender my own way, but he gets a complete range of choices to define his, and I indicated such. Equating that with “parenting decisions” that “mess with the lives of young people in need” is an attack.

    Not a single person has spoken of hating transmen. In fact, the opposite has been clearly expressed.

    Not a single person has said that having a vagina is proof of womanhood. In fact, most lesbian-feminists would object strongly to the notion of vagina as a definition of womanhood. Many, many essays and pieces of art have spoken out against the reduction of woman to holedom. I personally do not believe having a vagina has anything to do with female identity, because gender is a construct, not a biological destiny.

    Not a single person has advocated “separate but equal”.

    When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything is a nail.

    It isn’t about you. It isn’t about your ego or your feelings or your definitions. It’s about respecting the rights of others to make their own definitions for the target groups they choose to claim. If your definitions don’t agree with theirs, are you going to throw up a picket line and call them names and question their intelligence and accuse them of oppression, or are you going to maybe (just maybe) let a target group define themselves (in this, women-born-women, which has a long and serious tradition in lesbian-feminism of being an identity that women find useful to claim) and go hammer something that actually IS needing hammering?

    I am thrilled to have learned the lessons I’ve learned from meeting with other target group members and from meeting with allies of target group members. I am fucking grateful that my friends who were Jews were honest with me and asked me to find another way to support them. It has been the making of me. Because the issue is not my feelings or my ego or my membership card, the issue is finding room for everyone who has been targeted by a specific oppression to sort out for themselves what that means and then bring their thinking to the table. It means holding several ideas and identities and issues in your head at the same time, the kind of “field sensitivity” and multiple truths that women who are raised as women receive much more conditioning to learn how to do — not all conditioning takes, but in this instance, that ability or lack of it really shows up in this kind of a discussion.

    Lastly, oh my goodness, to suggest/imply that when a woman is noticing that someone is attempting to invalidate or disempower her, it is somehow HER fault — that she is “allowing” this behavior because she is failing to perceive the other person correctly — well, you could say that about absolutely any form of oppressive behavior. It’s always the target group who is supposed to do the understanding, changing, growing, reinterpreting — whew. In this instance, it’s classic sexism. No matter who says it.

    One of the best ways to deal with those who cannot engage without power plays or have not learned how to listen to what is actually being said is to simply not engage with them. Remove yourself from their presence and let them learn respect in another venue.

  112. Anonymous says:

    Great to read such a lively and polite debate. I’m working on the fight to defeat the marriage ban in Wisconsin, and I have to say, not everybody’s this nice.

    Funny: participants in the debate have been struggling to find an analogy, particularly using other identifiers (like race or religion)–and Imogene, I love all the questions you ask. Let’s keep asking them.

    Funny, because the analogy I think of is this: let’s say there’s a meeting of folks of color. Back in the 19th century–and even not so long ago as that–such a meeting would have included Jews, who were considered non-white. Are we solely a religion? Or is there an ethnic componant, too? Lots of us look pretty white, but some of us could never “pass” for being non-Jewish. Lots of us have been descriminated against because of this–even or especially non-practicing Jews, for whom the religious aspect of the identity is irrelevant–but our experiences of discrimination and priviledge will be very different from (other) Americans of color. Do we belong in such a meeting? Should we get our own meeting? Is it dangerous for us to recuse ourselves or to be excluded? Where do we fit?

    I remember a PBS doc about race that touched on this. There were these affinity groups, and then someone Jewish, someone Arab, and someone biracial left the groups to which they’d been assigned, saying they did not belong in any one group.

    Thing is, none of us do.

    Is this a decent analogy? Maybe not. Just something to mull over.

  113. lyssa says:

    Hi, Sister in Struggle

    Wonderful post! As a transwoman, I totally agree. We never had male privilege. Or at least not most of us. Our experiences are so much closer to women than not.
    For our entire lives. Period.

    As an aside, when people question my womanhood (a pretty standard response) they are making me into less of a woman, to put me in my place.
    What Impogene seems to be saying is that transwomen’s experiences are necessarily so different that summary exclusion is necessary. I had no idea that you had my complete life history! Right down to the oppressions I have faced.
    As a biracial person, I am troubled by imogene dean’s race analogy. The differences between blacks and Asians is not equal, not even similar. She appears to be using an important but irrelevant fact about racial oppression to justify her gendered oppression.
    If you truly need a WBW only space, I support you 100%. If that met urging another transwoman to stay away, I would do so. But I am alarmed that you are making unwarranted statements about my life and the life of my sisters who have experienced oppression as trans and as women for so much of our lives.

    Oppression by other women is a terrifying experience. It often puts us in danger as Sister in Struggle has so ably pointed out. Isn’t it time we were given the chance to face our oppression as women with the same privileges as nontrans women benefit from?

  114. lyssa says:

    “When trans women are oppressed, and they are oppressed, their oppression is the oppression of men.”

    Wendy, please don’t claim to know (and judge) my oppressions.

    Or are you seriously claiming that a doctor who insisted on giving me a breast exam and bruised and cut me in the process was oppressing me as a man?

  115. lyssa says:

    Oh, and please don’t call me a man, either.

  116. Amy says:

    To those who are taking offense to the comments about safe spaces – I don’t know if you are reacting to my post or not, but if you are:

    In the case of my post, I was responding directly to the quoted letter from the organizer of MWMF. She mentions the need for a space for women-born women several times in her statement. She does not use the term “safe space”, but to me it seems heavily implied by the direct statement that there is a need for healing and standing shoulder to shoulder with trans sisters and so on, but not at the expense of a space where women-born women can share their experiences. It seems clear from this that she feels that having transwomen in that space would compromise its potency or emotional safety in some way.

    I absolutely feel that anyone has the right to gather to share their experiences, be those based on gender, sexuality, religion, political beliefs, etc. To me, this is a fundamental human right.

    I was attemping to share from my own experience, which is that as I have gotten older I have a decreased need for these kinds of gatherings and often find them less supportive than those that are more diverse, yet are still based on mutual respect and sharing of thoughts and feelings from different viewpoints. This is not the same thing as saying that people should not be able to gather with others like them.

    Perhaps one problem is that gatherings of individuals with diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and identities where mutual respect is taken for granted are rare in many parts of this country and the world.

    My final statement was that this is my own feelings and I do not think others have to feel like me. Again, everyone has different needs that stem from their own experience, and these needs often change over time. Perhaps in the future I will once again find the need for more defined and structured time with people like me, as I did for many years when I was younger.

  117. lyssa says:

    Amy,

    You go, girl! Your last post shows me that you parctice what you preach. Apologies if I’m over reaching here.
    I’d like to believe that we think very much alike.

    I agree with your statement about MWMF’s statement. The problem is that MWMF participants are often brutal to trans women. It really is the implementation, and that abusive, discriminatory women are hiding behind a wonderful concept to justify rather uncivilized transphobia.

    They are not what they claim to be. They claim knowledge about transwomen that they cannot have, and use it to create a synthetic category based on prejudice.

    Safe spaces do not offend me. What woman would challenge the (pure) concept of safe space? Someone I would want to be far away from.

    If they need their space, so be it. But let it not be at the expense on other women. Let it not be based on hate. And let it not be justified by claiming that my experience is not this or that.

  118. lyssa says:

    OMG, I forgot something…sorry

    Not all MWMF participants are abusive. While this should be ovious, I probably shoud make it extra clear. I think it IS possible to create a space that excludes me (and others like me) WITHOUT being abusive. Or claiming to “understand” my oppressions.

  119. FTM here says:

    Hi,
    WENDY!
    I’m an FTM, and I have been denied health coverage, ejected from gendered spaces and denied health treatment at a womans health facility when I really needed it, all because of my status as a transman. Is my oppression female oppression, like sister in struggles syb is apparently experiencing male oppression??????????? I believe,and I think most who have experienced real exclusion based on predgudice that has threatened their physical wellbeing, that this is not male oppression or female oppression, but the oppression that occurs when someone falls outside the heteronormative box. Butches (butch women) have similar experiences of assault, denial of medical treatment, and ejection from women’s spaces. Older femmes who have saught a place in second wave feminism have also experienced this same “out of the box” exclusion from those feminist spaces. This oppression is the active and damaging process of “othering” which is precisely what is happening at Fest with Lisa’s exclusionary verbal policy. We must unite, not devide. I do not seek access in a woman only space, and I am very conscious of my male privilage when I am in women’s spaces and pipe down to let womens voices shine through instead opf being a loudmouth which I alsways have been since I could speak. Anyway, I digress. I am sceptical of all these fence-sitters and semi-pro WBW policy people who qualify their statements with the fact thay they spend a lot of time with trans people or know the community. I think that if any of you spent any close time with any transwoman, you would know that these aare our sisters and they deserve to be in a women born women space because they are.

  120. Chris says:

    Perhaps, in a few (or more) decades, the “Womyn Born Womyn Only!”sign will only be found, gathering dust in the Smithsonian, right next to the “White Only!” and “No Irish Need Apply!” signs in the Historical Oddities section.

  121. lyssa says:

    Maggie Jochild

    If you never said transwomen are not women, how do I reconcile that with this:

    “he fucking well deserves to have that direct need addressed without us giving him chemicals and narrow boxes instead.”

    I am grateful that you had little influence on MY right to HRT. And I am grateful to the women who fought for it when it was threatened. They thought it was worth fighting for, which is why they risked their careers to do it.

    WRT the rest of the post. You are clearly transphobic. Some glaring examples include:
    Use of male pronouns to describe someone who identifies as a woman

    Expressing concern that ”
    Not a single person has advocated “separate but equal”.
    ( I refer you to Brown v. Board of education. Separate but equal is usually not)

    I said women-born-women have a radically different socialization and personal experience than any other group and sometimes we want to express that among ourselves, figure out what that means without input from other groups, because we are specifically target for sexism in a way that no other group matches exactly.

    There is only ONE other group. If you need to be away from us, so be it. But please don’t trash transwomen with male pronouns, or claim to know what we want. Wwe are targets of women’s oppression, too. The major difference is that we are also oppressed in many other ways. Are our oppressions so radically different? How do you know, unless you sit down and listen!
    I’d like to do the same, but your issues with respect for other people’s identities is wanting.

  122. lyssa says:

    Thank you, FTM here!

  123. shadocat says:

    To Mc; I’m sorry- I was caught up in the moment and your ironic sensibilities sailed right over my head. Apologies to you. But for those of you who really believe in that sort of crap, I stand behind what I said.

  124. Anonymous says:

    Sir Real: “I can’t help thinking it might be, I mean, it looks like (on quick calculation) that anti-androgens could cost at least $100 a month.”

    FYI, a fairly high level dosage of anti-androgens will cost you about $20/month (ordered in bulk from overseas pharmacies). For a more introductory dosage level, you can get a 5-month supply for $30 ($6/month).

    These are not “weak” substitutes, these are the same drugs that you can get at the local drug store (except it’ll cost you a lot more at the local drug store, unless insurance picks up the tab).

    Also, some of the online pharmacies accept alternative forms of payment (like Western Union Money Transfers), so a credit card is not strictly necessary.

    I have a friend who is a 16-year old currently on anti-androgens without the knowledge or consent of her parents. She has them delivered to a friend’s house, and she saves all her money for ordering these pills because it’s that important to her. I don’t know exactly how she places the order and arranges payment, but if she ever asked me to I’d order them for her myself.

    Avoiding masculinization of the face and body is critical for someone that age – if she waits until after she’s 18 to start anti-androgens, she will suffer from the consequences of that delay for the rest of her life. Some of the effects of testosterone are reversible (with electrolysis or surgery, for instance, and often at considerable pain and expense), but some of them are irreversible.

    Anyways, I guess my point is that these days, a teenager managing to get a supply of anti-androgens isn’t at all surprising.

  125. lyssa says:

    Anonymous, you’re right on the money. Hope you don’t mind if I add…

    How to Pay for HRT

    1 Many places sell pay VISA cards. Use it like any VISA card, etc (literature on request and no, I don’t work for them)

    2 HRT gave me an a** that was a cause celebre at the bar I used to work at. And nice B+/C- boobs. I got mine at http://www.inhousepharmacy.com Airmailed to your door, no questions asked, etc.

    My HRT cost about $90 per six weeks for a most reasonable (on average)maintenance when I started. When my development stalled (This happens a lot) i increased the doses each time. Most T-women have to do this only once or twice.

    Methods other T-women have used

    Buy recognizable brand names from a dealer

    Steal

    Forge

    Enlist a sympathetic doctor…I once did this with a phone call

    etc.

    Just echoing Anonymous’s point…where there’s a will, there’s a way.

  126. FTM here says:

    I started hormones wicked young, 19 or so. but you have to admit that 15 is much younger, mturity-wise, to be doing hormones. I’m not saying that trannies shouldnt do it at that age under any circumstances, but it still makes me feel a little oogey.

  127. cicely says:

    I must have read about the issue of the WBW policy at michfest from every possible angle over the last almost two years since I took up an invitation to participate on the michfest political discussion board. I haven’t posted there for about ten months now – and I left in protest of the way I saw tranwomen’s lived experience and meaning being challenged and denied by WBW who, of course, have not had and are not having said experience. I see this occurring here as well. The ideas include that transwomen (and men I guess) should work to transform society to accept them as they are physically born, not transform their own bodies and that transwomen are nothing more than dupes of a patriarchal medical establishment that just wants to make money out of therapy, hormone treatment and SRS. Where here is the honouring of an individuals self-motivation, self-understanding, intelligence, emotion, character and everything else they bring to the making of their own unique lives? Do lesbians enjoy having people suggest that they ‘turned’ lesbian because they had a bad experience with a man sometime in the long ago, or because they’re too ugly to ‘get’ a man, or whatever easy/ready theory some ‘subject’ person wants to posit to other and objectify and ‘explain’ them? I don’t believe so. But that’s exactly what’s happening here.

    I also have very mixed feelings about the actual policy. I think that, with the exception of those who’s opinions reflect the above, or any who are just flat out transphobic, every woman has a valid point of view, and every point of view appears to be well represented – from transwomen who support the policy to WBW who don’t support it. Very obviously not everyone can be accomodated or pleased. But what would we be left with if we take away the political imperatives of lesbian-feminism (and radical feminism where it applies)? These, imo, are what cause the most acrimony in the whole debate because these are what inform the dismissal of individual transexual experience. This is the bit I wish more WBW would question more deeply. What guarantees are there that a descriptive and prescriptive political ideology – *any* political ideology – holds the answers to questions about the human experience that are as deep as this?

    For the record, I am a 52 yo WBW, feminist and and LBL (lesbian born lesbian :-)
    who has long dreamed of travelling from first New Zealand and now Australia, where I live, to attend the festival. I’ve decided though, that even if it were actually possible for me to get there (which it may or may not be), I wouldn’t go now because I can in no way support the anti-trans politics that, imo, Lisa Vogel does little to nothing to distance herself from – including and maybe especially on the michfest board where extremely nasty and transphobic comments go unchallenged or unpunished even though the board can be moderated.

    I have no personal objection to sharing any women’s space with anyone who identifies as a woman, whatever path has led them to their womanhood. I believe our community will only begin to heal when it fully accepts transwomen as women everywhere, but I also respect that women who ask for or feel they need WBW space have thought and felt that through and arrived at a different conclusion for themselves. I don’t feel I have a right to protest their conclusion, as long as their words and actions towards transwomen are respectful.

    On the other hand, I see why many transwomen regard this as a human and civil rights issue, and I also can’t protest their protest at being excluded from a women’s event.

    My personal policy is that I will never again attend a WBW event anywhere.

    Finally – Hello AB – I have four DTWOF books, but haven’t been keeping up with them for a while now. Definitely time to re-acquaint myself with that little community!!!

  128. lyssa says:

    I started when I was 14 but stopped because of the side effects. It turned out to be a lifesaving decision.
    I know she’s only a cartoon character, but I fear for her and others like her. It can get really ugly if your trans.

    FTM here, how was starting T for you? Do you identify with anyone in the strip?

  129. lyssa says:

    wow, cicely. That was well put. They can have their ideology.

    When you said:
    and I left in protest of the way I saw tranwomen’s lived experience and meaning being challenged and denied by WBW who, of course, have not had and are not having said experience. I see this occurring here as well.
    I worried that I might be guilty. I hope I never do this. I know I can never be born a woman. That fact causes me great regret. My womanhood divides other women. And that hurts. It’s easy to slip into guilt, easy to lash out, easy to denigrate without facts. And it’s so painful to listen sometimes. And such hard work. With no guarantee that the other parties will return the favor.

    But then again, maybe you get what you pay for in the end.

    DTWOF was a big help to me. Coming out trans and committing to full transition were hard enough. being lesbian on top of that was just overwhelming. Thank you, AB for making my life a little easier, and a little lighter

  130. Anonymous says:

    lyssa: “I started when I was 14 but stopped because of the side effects. It turned out to be a lifesaving decision. I know she’s only a cartoon character, but I fear for her and others like her. It can get really ugly if your trans.”

    Well, there are no *good* choices for a teenager with severe gender dysphoria and uncooperative parents.

    However, the predominant anti-androgen used in the USA (spironolactone) is annoying as can be (because of it’s diuretic properties) but it is rarely life-threatening. The only real danger is if your potassium levels spike too high (because it is a potassium-sparing diuretic), and this is usually pretty easy to avoid simply by not pigging out on high potassium foods.

    Full HRT without blood tests or medical supervision is a lot more dangerous than just taking spiro, and just taking spiro is enough to delay puberty (or the effects of testosterone poisoning, as some people like to refer to it) indefinitely.

    The SOC (Standards of Care) actually call for getting teens onto anti-androgens as soon as possible (but that requires cooperative parents until you are medically of age), with full HRT to follow at a more mature age.

  131. lyssa says:

    Anonymous,

    I sense that you doubt me. I trust this will help dispel some of the asumptions you appear to have made.

    This was not true when I was 14. We were definitely pre version 6. Plus, you have to be a language lawyer to use it. In addition, the SOC call does nothing actually *bring* these services. Finding them was hard too. We had no Internet in 1983. Or “LGBT publications.” I was in rural Texas, and my big concern at the time was getting a restraining order on my parents…

    You’re right about spiro being pretty inoccuous. In normal people, anyway. I had a severe reaction (uticaria with anaphlaxis) when I started Spiro (at 37). When I was 14 I had no idea what to do. And without treatment, you can die from airway obstruction. And I knew enough not to exceed the limits of my ability to cope. Wiith treatment, I could barely breathe for 3 days. I didn’t go to the ER because I felt they would have killed me. Turns out that the standard treatment, predinsone, would have done just that. I found that out later.
    This is an uncommon but observed side effect with MANY drugs. And you don’t know until you try…

    Anon.: Well, there are no *good…..
    Are you presuming that I thought she should do as I did? Yes her circumstances were different, but similar enough for me to express empathy and concern, nothing more.

    Circumstances matter…

  132. Anonymous says:

    Actually, you also have to guard against your blood pressure going to low on spiro, but that’s also usually not a problem (and you are going to get clues – like being light headed – long before it gets to dangerous levels).

  133. lyssa says:

    That last was not very clear, Trying again…

    I didn’t know that I would have such a reaction at the time. What I did know was that drugs can go bad, easy. Since I didn’t have resources to cope, I stopped Spiro when I started losing electrolytes profusely (this can happen when you have adrenal issues as I do)

    Anon. I really like your posts. But this one really bothered me.

  134. Wendy says:

    lyssa, on
    September 22nd, 2006 at 12:44 am
    you quoted me:
    “When trans women are oppressed, and they are oppressed, their oppression is the oppression of men”

    and said: “Wendy, please don’t claim to know (and judge) my oppressions. …Or are you seriously claiming that a doctor who insisted on giving me a breast exam and bruised and cut me in the process was oppressing me as a man?”

    Lyssa,
    Actually, I think the doctor who insisted on giving you a breast exam and hurt you was oppressing you as a woman and a man. He was taking his male privledge over your breasts, in a way that smacks of sexism. On the other hand, I think he was also hurting you because you used to be a boy and boys are not supposed to have breasts.

    But generally what I was thinking about when I said you had experienced male oppression is that before you had your transition, when you were a boy you were oppressed as a boy. As soon as someone is born they are treated differently if they are male or female. Infant boys are held way less than infant girls, and all through people’s very young childhood and childhood they are treated differently because they are a girl or a boy. This seems very wrong to me, but it does seem like how things are. Because of that, because of other people’s beliefs about boys and girls, everyone who is seen as a “boy” by the rest of the world will be treated one way, and everyone who is seen as a “girl” will be treated another. These early confusions sent our way effect us.
    To the extent that it is useful to come together with other people who have the same experience, I think there should be spaces for women who were treated as girls are treated when they were young. This group of people probably does include some people who were born as boys.

  135. Anonymous says:

    Lyssa: “I sense that you doubt me.”

    No, not at all. Please don’t read any criticism at all into my responses towards you, none is intended.

    Any drug can be dangerous, and I was also under the impression (perhaps incorrectly) that you might have started taking more than just spiro.

    I’m just saying that life is dangerous for a 14-year old with severe gender dysphoria no matter what she does. I think that for most such girls it is worth taking spiro. It has a very good risk-reward ratio (and people do things as dangerous as taking spiro without blood tests all the time).

  136. Anonymous says:

    Lyssa, I’m not the same “Anon” that made some of the earlier posts. I’m just too lazy to think up a handle for a board I normally never post on, and I don’t use my real name when posting about trans issues.

    Sorry for the confusion, and sorry that my post upset you.

    And on that note, I really need to be going…

  137. lyssa says:

    My BP is 90/60 after runnning to catch a bus (8 min delay between this and the BP on 600mg Spiro) Blood pressure off spiro: 90/60. In both cases, hydration (which I’m not able to easily do. I would tell you why but you are not making it easy to do so, or be acknowledged for pointing out that you lacked important information)

    I have argued with EMT’s about still being conscious with this BP- only the EMT measured it as 81/50. But the who was I to challenge the belief that 120/80 is normal? And to a medical professional, no less. How dare I?

    Having worked with medical students in an anatomy lab for two years and seeing their frustration when life doesn’t match their textbooks, I can understand why they called them “storybooks.”

  138. meg says:

    Lyssa wrote: “Or are you seriously claiming that a doctor who insisted on giving me a breast exam and bruised and cut me in the process was oppressing me as a man? ”

    Wendy responded: “Actually, I think the doctor who insisted on giving you a breast exam and hurt you was oppressing you as a woman and a man. He was taking his male privledge over your breasts, in a way that smacks of sexism. On the other hand, I think he was also hurting you because you used to be a boy and boys are not supposed to have breasts.”

    Funny, I don’t see the gender of the doctor as being mentioned… assume for a minute that it was a female doctor – what difference does that make in your perceptions?

  139. lyssa says:

    Wendy,

    Phrased this way, your claim makes a lot more sense. I hope that I didn’t insinuate that our experiences are equivalent. Now that this is clear, I have a better understanding. Thank you.

    A cautionary note is in order. If you make a statement like this
    When trans women are oppressed, and they are oppressed, their oppression is the oppression of men.

    It is easily inferred that you believe that:
    we are really men, or male bodies mean male oppression. They don’t.
    and that we have no idea of how our oppression is gendered. No dialog to explore this. Nothing but a flat declaration of what my oppression is.
    The moral: How come your understanding trumps mine?

    Getting hurt in an exam by an authority figure (I have a hard time standing up to doctors) is not oppression of men. I am not a man with gynecomastia. The official reason that the clinic gave was that he is awful with women. This is true- I’ve swapped similar horror stories with nontrans women who went there.

    Just because there was a transwoman present and she was being oppressed does NOT automatically mean that it is male oppression. Nor does it automatically exclude it because I identify as a transwoman. To understand an oppression, you have to examine it, not pronounce judgement as an outsider. A good example of this is a statement (with analysis) like yours:

    Actually, I think the doctor who insisted on giving you a breast exam and hurt you was oppressing you as a woman and a man.

    The bad news is that it needed to be applied to my male life, too. And it wasn’t.

  140. lyssa says:

    Apologies. I just caught myself in a nasty bit of sexist thinking. I thought it would be obvious that he was male. Ouch, but I felt being completely honest was mandatory given your question.

    Absolutely! I agree! I have been fighting off sexually abusive males who saw me as a vulnerable male. (this is common for transwomen). Not trusting men is a real prejudice of mine. I have been very badly abused by men all my life. But that only makes the task of refusing to prejudge men damn hard, not impossible. And for me to truly own my experiences, I must be responsible for the attitudes, etc. that I bring.
    I was 11 when I found feminism. It was a lifesaver for me. It explained the very crazy world I found myself in. That people mistreat each other based on the fact that they were women. or had power over them, etc. And that it was not OK, the tools of respectful resistance.
    With a male doctor, I need these tools. And they are often not enough. The threat level for me is very high.
    With a female doctor, I have some freedom from these worries. I worry more about the effects of my coming off as knowledgeable. As a threat to their competency. Profesional women are constantly challenged. The residue of that treatment shows up clearly on my radar. And I feel compelled to respect that. I grew up knowing intimately what being thought of as “less than” for my gender was.

    Sorry so long…Is this useful?

  141. dandypants says:

    Hey Folks,
    Loved the strip.

    Anyone who cares to read more aboutwhat happened at the 2006 MWMF can do so by visiting The Yellow Armbands Trans-Inclusive Festie and Worker Support group at: http://yellowarmbands.livejournal.com
    yellowarmbands@gmail.com

    I was present at the gate on both days when two out transwomen were sold tickets and participated at Fest, and yes, there were pretty amazing vibes between trans-inclusive festies, workers and Camp Trans this past year. There is a healing taking place and Fest is becoming more welcome and despite LV’s reponse to the CT press release, many, many folks on The Land did welcome these women and woulde welcome future transwomen attending.

    I think we have to keep in mind that relations between the Fest office and CT are frosty at best and that often the voices of individuals on both sides are often not heard in the mix.

    Take care everyone!

    dandypants
    Co-Mod, Yellow Armbands

  142. lyssa says:

    Corrections…Sorry, Meg

    Absolutely! I agree! I have been…
    should have been
    Absolutely! I agree that I would have percieved it differently! I have been…

    And that it was not OK, the tools of respectful resistance.
    should have been
    And that it was not OK, and the tools of respectful resistance.

    “less than” for my gender was.
    should have been
    “less than” for my gender was. And I feel compelled not to add to it.

  143. lyssa says:

    Hi, dandypants

    That’s wonderful! I’m so glad that people are seeing healing. To me that is more important than any divisive issue.

  144. Kathy says:

    A lot of quick bits:

    On the term Women Born Women: When I first heard this in the 80s, it wasn’t about transwomen at all. It was about women born OF women, about the fact that we are our mother’s daughters, not our father’s property. It was a rejection of patriarchal notions of fatherhood equaling ownership. This was a really strong strain in feminist thinking that has mostly disappeared. Women were dropping their father’s surname and instead changing it to refer to their mothers, Janesdaughter Motherborn or things like that.

    On anti-androgens and whether Janis would be taking them: As I said, I work with these kids online. It’s real and it happens, AB’s not making it up. These kids are hyperaware of exactly how much they have to lose if they masculinize.

    On men’s and women’s privilege and oppression. Everyone is a combination of privileges and oppressions. As a male I had certain encouragements that MOST women don’t have. While I was living as a male, I had a lot of unconscious male privilege accorded me. On the other hand, many of my friends are daughters of rabid feminists who’s parents very strongly and consciously tried to encourage them to be interested in science, play sports, and so on. They’re fighting society. But that is fully true for transkids.

    All of us, whether trans or not, absorb the cultural values of media. When I saw television as a child and women were nurses and men were doctors, the message to me was that my role was to be a nurse because my consciousness of myself was as female, not male. When I watched Billy Jean King obliterate Bobby Riggs, I was in ectasy because despite all the forces telling me what I was supposed to be and do, I saw her doing that for me and all the other women.

    I am now a woman. I live as a woman. I exist as a woman. I have to put up with having all my decisions at work questioned just like any other woman. I need to weave through the business minefield between being a doormat and being thought of as a “bitch” because as a woman I’m not allowed to be assertive. And when I go out in public with my partner, it’s pretty obvious we’re a lesbian couple and we get treated accordingly. In other words, I go through the same chauvenist BS that every other woman does. And I very desperately need to access women’s space just like any other woman does.

    On transwomen and men taking up too much social space: This cracked me up because I’m in a class that is 18 women and 1 man (welcome to the underpaid world of social work) and the guy drives me absolutely crazy because the rest of us never get a word in edgewise. Not all transwomen are like that. And many non-trans women are assertive. If a non-transwoman is assertive, it’s considered a feminist statement. If a transwoman is assertive, it’s considered a sign she’s really a man.

    On MWMF being a place for women to process the reality of having been born and brought up women. While that sounds great, that’s a very narrow focus. Fest is not narrowly focused. It’s not about the age 0-18 experience of being a woman. In fact, someone went through program books for several recent fests and that topic hasn’t even had a single workshop devoted to it! It’s about sisterhood. It’s about women’s culture. It’s about having space away from the oppressive class of male. The vast vast majority of women attending MWMF are either lesbian or bisexual. Straight women have massive privileges and a completely different experience of growing up. But nobody would ever suggest that they not be allowed at a women’s festival. (Duh, they’re women, of course they come!) Fest is not about bringing together a narrow group of people within the category women. It’s about bringing together all women. Except there’s an asterisk saying “oh yeah, except transwomen.”

    On FTMs and women’s space: It’s interesting that while there’s a bit of lip service about the issue of FTM men accessing women’s space, it doesn’t seem to bring up the same level of vitriol. Julia Serano uses the term “transmisogyny” to describe this. But whether it’s a full frothing fundie or the hatemongers on the MWMF message boards, there is something about transwomen that really sets people off emotionally.

  145. Mittsy says:

    Has anyone read the book “As nature made him – the boy who was raised as a girl” by John Colapinto (2000)? I read it when it was first released and still find it one of the most compelling examinations of the neverending nature vs. nurture conflict regarding gender identification.

    It’s the true story of a baby boy who, in 1966, was the victim of a botched circumcision and was subsequently “changed” into a girl by his parents and doctor. One of the most fascinating aspects of the story is that he is an identical twin, and the twins were followed throughout their lives by a psychologist. The psychologist’s criteria for “acting like a girl” and “identifying as a girl” (ignoring for a moment his generation) is quite confronting, considering he is holding up his study as “scientific research” into gender identity.

    The review card for the book, when I bought it in “A Room of One’s Own” feminist bookstore in Madison, Wisconsin, said: “I couldn’t stop talking back to this book!”.

  146. Kathy says:

    Ugh one I forgot.

    Gender Identity vs. Gender Expression. Maggie, if the child you are dealing with really just wants to have a different gender expression. Being more sensitive. Being able to dress cute, wear nail polish, or whatever, then what you’re doing is great. But that’s just not the same as being transsexual.

    And I would caution you that it often takes huge courage to say to a parent or caregiver that you want to transition and even a sympathetic rejection of that notion can bury it again for years. And while you may not perceive yourself as hostile to the ideas of transition, as a transwoman I perceive you that way and I suspect that this child will probably pick up on that as well. Parental and caregiver disapproval is a huge factor for a child, so don’t be so sure that if you give him a doll and s/he stops talking about wanting to be a girl that s/he really has gotten what s/he wanted.

    I believed all the essentialist anti-trans rhetoric when I got to college (U-Mass where the notorious Janice Raymond was head of WoStu). I bought into it probably I was so devoted to feminism as a concept. I spent years and years trying to live as an alternative gender neutral guy. I carved out a life where I was able to do so. It didn’t work. This is deeper than thinking a skirt would be cool to wear during the summer. It’s about a feeling very deep inside your soul that everything about your gender is wrong.

  147. lyssa says:

    Afterword on the Doc:

    According to another employee, he was so horrified at what went down that he asked for (and got within 6 months) a trans sensitive clinic! New forms, pronoun training, the works! I was blown away. The doctor even got a female PA to see me since it was known that I was uncomfortable around him.

    I heard how it happened from my friend, who works at another branch of the same clinic. She described it like this:
    Did you hear about the woman [at the south branch]? I hear Dr. [name] bruised her breasts.

    me: Was this last October? was she trans?

    Yes!

    That was me…etc

    Just another day in paradise

  148. lyssa says:

    Kathy

    Re: Ugh…

    I resemble that remark…I too had to prove that being a guy in any form was not an option. That I wasn’t doing it for female goodies. That surgery was the only way that I could not be totally alienated from my body.

    You are so right about courage. In the mid 80′s I had a sympathetic MD who jumped on it a little too quickly.As in “Stop everything..” I backed down and did not ask for HRT for 18 years.

    OMG Janice Raymond as dept. head? omg omg. Wow

  149. Kathy says:

    My partner even flunked Raymond’s class :)

  150. tallie says:

    okay, just in response:
    i apologize if folks thought i was not listening to the discussion. i should have directed my comments more clearly.

    specifically, i heard folks on this board say “transwomen should have their own festival.” this, to me, is seperate but equal, and what i was referring to when i said that.

    every debate i’ve ever heard about transwomen at michfest has been about safe space. i have never heard that it’s a space for women-born women to discuss their gender identity. if this is true, is this what actually happens at the festival? do you leave knowing more concretely about your gender identity as different then transwomen? how do you know, if transwomen aren’t there to accurately represent themselves?

    i think for many people it is about safe space. as a survivor i understand this feeling, that michfest must be wonderful because i’m not going to be around men.
    (incidentally, women can and do rape each other. and this is why i say there is no safe space.)

    what is michfest for people? really and truly. the lived experience. how would that experience really change if transwomen were there? would you know? honestly.

  151. lyssa says:

    tallie

    These are very necessary questions to ask. It’s important to know if they are achieving their stated purpose and how. In their words. Keep asking.

    I think I’ll just lurk now. Thank you all for a good discussion. :)

  152. shadocat says:

    Lois needs to have a sit-down with Jasmine, Janis, and (hopefully) a centered mediator. I would suggest Sparrow, but lately, she seems a little off center, so maybe someone else.

    Jasmine needs to know whats going on with her child, and better yet, support her child in this process. I know as a mother, it waould be very hard to give up on the idea that perhaps her litlle boy will just eventually “grow out of this phase” She’ll have to grieve the loss of her son, and learn to accept that her child is now her daughter.A very difficult thing to do, but if she doesn’t do it. she risks losing her child all together. Janis is not going to stop using hormones, no matter what her mother does. At least with Mom’s support, she can take the appropriate things at the right time under the care of a good doctor.

    Self-medication, especially when hormones are involved can be a very dangerous thing; she could end up damaging her body for good, not to mention endangering her life.
    Jasmine needs to give all her love and support to Janis, because she’ll need it.

    Are you all aware under our great big umbrella that covers the “GLBT” community, that trans people have the highest rate of violence directed towards them? Trans people are more likely to be victims of a hate crime than gays, lesbians, or bi-sexuals combined. (I used to work in the DV field , and still volunteer). Trans people are more likely to be severely injured, or even murdered because of their sexual orientation, than any other group in our…well, group?

    Who needs a safe space now?

  153. Deb says:

    lyssa, thanks for all your wonderful input! I have been lurking as well! Thank you Alison, for providing us all with such a great forum and strip that initiates conversation and examination of such important issues!

  154. cicely says:

    I’m going to try and do a quote and since there’s no preview I’m prepared for this post to show up looking rather strange – apologies if so….

    lyssa wrote:

    ‘When you said:
    ‘and I left in protest of the way I saw tranwomen’s lived experience and meaning being challenged and denied by WBW who, of course, have not had and are not having said experience. I see this occurring here as well.’
    I worried that I might be guilty. I hope I never do this. I know I can never be born a woman. That fact causes me great regret. My womanhood divides other women. And that hurts.

    Yes, this does cut both ways except that I don’t generally see transwomen denying that WBW have a different experience -just asking about the significance of the difference and what we should and shouldn’t do because of it. I see that if we go deeper the questions are about the nature of the difference – since we’re all at the very least *self* identified women (and experiencing the world *as* women now). Most of us were immediately identified as such by others though, and were treated in the world accordingly. Then there’s what Kathy wrote:

    ‘One of the things you might find out if this horrid nightmare for the womyn’s community ends is how the negative images of women made us feel as women when we were growing up.’

    Yep. I think we can learn a lot from sharing the fullness of all of our experiences. To be fair – I know many Michfest policy supporters would feel this way too, but just want a little time with only women who’ve had the whole WBW – and identified by others as such – experience. I question -for myself – the ‘need’ for that – as I don’t personally feel it. WBW are always going to be the vast majority at any large gathering and, as someone else wrote earlier, there are great differences *between* WBW’s experiences of girl and womanhood based on class, race, ethnicity, sexuality, politics – whatever as well. We’re not one great homogeneous group. I look at what it costs the whole community to maintain separate WBW spaces, and I think the cost is too high – and particularly for transwomen. I know I don’t want to see such spaces spread, which is why I won’t support them even if I’m fence-sitting as far as actively protesting them goes. I won’t fight with other WBW over what they want or feel they have a need for and a right to. I will protest anti-trans politics though, and these are clearly present around all WBW spaces, even if not all the supporters agree with them. See, WBW can say ‘it’s just one week a year in the woods in Michigan’, but that one week isn’t actually available to most women and lesbians around the world so, with the continued legitimisation of such a famous event, they may want to create more WBW spaces closer to home. That happened in Australia early this year. The organisers had to go through a whole lot of cloak and dagger stuff around selling tickets for the event – in order to circumvent civil rights laws which prohibited it. The community polarisation around the transexual issue literally destroyed the Lesbian Space Project in Sydney over a bitter period of years and Lesfest – 2004 I think it was – had to be cancelled because there was some confusion around the dates when a special dispensation of civil rights laws applied and it was too late to re-organise. Who does this kind of thing help? I ask myself. But I see no resolution in sight. Perhaps some kind of osmosis at michfest will begin because of the way things unfolded there this year. Obviously it’s a great event – no-one wants to see it destroyed – but I guess it’s going to have to change. (which I understand amounts to destroying it in the minds of many WBW.) The only questions are how long will it take and how nasty might the resistance to change become. I don’t think it’s going to matter what the ratio of yellow to red armbands turns out to be next year – if that actually occurs. All that will be being measured from year to year is the pace of inevitable change. Maybe I would go after all, if I could, and wear a yellow armband. I do find the ‘what to do’ about this issue very, very difficult and fence-sitting is not at all comfortable. I thought just not attending WBW events was a good approach, but now I’m not sure again…

  155. Hannah says:

    Okay…wow. Somewhere back up there, there was a comic strip, right? Allison, I dont know whether or not you are basking in all this or ripping your hair out, but you have to say one thing…your strip provoked alot of gut reactions! Congratulations…you have commited art! *grin* Of course, you have been doing that for years, as we have all had gut reactions over your art for a long long time.
    Enjoyed the strip!
    Blessings!
    Hannah

  156. Aunt Soozie says:

    Alison…you’re raising a ruckus girl..and Aunt Soozie just can’t hold back any longer…is anyone out there still reading? or are we just talking at one another?

    I don’t know how much simpler it could be than saying that women born women request a time when they can be with each other to the exclusion of all others.

    If you’ve never experienced what it’s like to be in a group where folks are deliberate about gathering that way…
    as a group that has been oppressed around a common identity…
    celebrating who they are…
    then you just don’t know how important that experience can be. It’s not about “no men” or “no transwomen” it’s about who we are, not who we’re not.

    to the person who asked, do women talk about the experience of being wbw at michfest and do they learn more about what it means to be wbw…

    holy moly…you’re joking right?

    it’s not something you’d have to verbalize,
    though I’m certain many women do
    but it would be impossible to be at michigan and not learn, experientially, something about what it means to be a wbw.

    there are festivals that welcome ALL women.
    it’s truly sad that so much energy is invested in trying to change the policy at michigan and not on enriching the festivals that are inclusive.

    I can’t imagine how much trans energy and education and celebration could be added to those venues if women put their focus there…
    instead of trying to assert the right to integrate a venue where folks are asking to have their difference, their diversity, their identity valued and respected. It’s so ironic that some in the trans community are denying wbw exactly what trans women so dearly desire…that very respect!

    it’s not about separate but equal. I’m not nearly that generous. it’s about respecting the need, once a year, for one week, for just plain old separate.

    When you have been oppressed and repressed and abused there is a time and a place for separatism and it’s a valuable and necessary experience. I will never shove my way into the women of color’s tent at michigan and I will never challenge a group of transwomen’s right to have a retreat that excludes me…because I respect the right of these women to create space to celebrate and explore, fully, who they are in a context where they are with one another to the exclusion of all others.

    okay, come n’git me. c’mon now…

  157. Kathy says:

    “it would be impossible to be at michigan and not learn, experientially, something about what it means to be a wbw”

    What have you learned at fest about what it means to be a WBW that isn’t about what it means to be a woman?

  158. Aunt Soozie says:

    “If you’ve never experienced what it’s like to be in a group where folks are deliberate about gathering that way…
    as a group that has been oppressed around a common identity…
    celebrating who they are…
    then you just don’t know how important that experience can be.”

    Kathy,
    I think I already addressed what you’re asking in the quote above and what I learned about being in a group of wbw was not at michigan, it was way back at girl scout camp.

    What concerns me about your challenge is that it feels like being asked to quantify and qualify my experience to prove I have a right to ask for respect…that my own perception of the difference between myself and a transwoman is not valid.

    Isn’t it enough to say that this difference is meaningful to me? Isn’t it enough to say that I’d like to be in a space for one week, once a year with wbw?

    Do I have to prove that I deserve and/or need it?

    Is this the old argument of releasing an avalance??
    you know, if we let the homos marry each other
    soon humans will be marrying goats?

    or if we pass the equal rights amendment soon all public restrooms will have to be unisex? (remember that one?)

    is the fear that if we exclude transwomen from michigan we’ll deny these women their identity everywhere?
    fail to see these women for who they are anywhere?
    prohibit them from living as the women that they are in the world at large? not respect their identity in general?

    Gosh, what patriarchial notions.

  159. Aunt Soozie says:

    oh, uhm avalanche…

  160. anony says:

    silly tranny boy – i’m sorry, that was a f***ed up typo.
    that’s all.

  161. PKintheUK says:

    Ok, I second whoever suggested threading the comments; that’s my response to the MWMF controversy. (my own mixed feelings on the matter are closest to Ellen O.’s)

    In other news, Please, please can we see a relationship going well? Jezanna and Audrey would be nice, or maybe Mo and Sydney can have a breakthrough (or Clarice and Toni for that matter–sometimes when you confront the possibility of breaking up it can lead to more honest and constructive relationships). Or Samia and Ginger–Ginger could finally move past whatever her issues are. It’s not unprecedented–remember when Mo got her back cracked and snapped out of her funk? That was a great moment.

    I know a lot of the “grittiness” in the strip is probably for the sake of realism, but I think positive growth and change in individuals and relationships is/can be realistic! Unless, Alison, you still believe all the catch-22s you described in “Serial Monogamy.”

    From personal experience I know that relationships in trouble can get better OR worse depending on a number of factors. Unless you do believe that all relationships are doomed (if not to breakup, then to long-term misery), please let’s see a counterexample!

    And regardless of my complaining THANK YOU SO MUCH for the strip and for distributing it this way.

  162. Kelseigh says:

    You know something, there’s an issue in Ms. Vogel’s press release I don’t think has been fully addressed, and I think it should. That is, her assertion that WBW is a “valid gender identity”.

    Well, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say no. I do NOT recognize WBW as a gender identity. Particularly when every defense of the term describes the “Born Womyn” part as about socialization and experience. Woman, yes. Woman I can see as a valid gender identity, particularly since I share that identity. But WBW? Forget it.

    To me, this is nothing more than a cynical attempt on the part of Ms. Vogel to appropriate the experience of transsexuals to use as a weapon against us, a very political weapon, and I for one am not prepared to accept that. It’s already been shown above that the term WBW has been redefined from its original intent to use as a club on transsexuals, I will not accept further redefinition in the service of denying our experiences as women.

    I will accept WBW as a social identity. Or in the case of Ms. Vogel and her followers, a highly political one. But I will not accept it as a gender identity, because it manifestly is not one. And I, personally, find Ms. Vogel’s suggestion that it is, offensive.

  163. FTM here says:

    xoKelseighxo. U are super hot!And not in that eroticized freak identity way but in that someone-just-said-something-so-smart-I-want-to-lick-their-cerebral-cortex kind of way.
    Lyssa, in response to your question, I would totally ID with Lois. She is a crazy genderqueer slut who gets around and isnt ashamed to be sex-positive. as am I. When I was a little babydyke and me and all my lil babydyke buddies would play the old “which dykes to watch out for character are YOU?” game, they’d always insist I was lois. She also isnt afraid to call out her friends on their transphobic bullshit, which I really respect, because it is so much easier said than done.
    A little about DTWOF:
    I started reading the DTWOF commics when I was 14. I happened upon one when I was going through the comming out faze of picking up an devowering anything that said the word DYKE on it at the local B&N. I was totally alone in my town. The only other queer person I knew hated me, and I had no gay relatives at all. I was an outcast at school, and invisible at home with two mentally ill parents AND a mentally ill sister. *isn’t it funny how the kinky freak tranny of the family turns out to be the only one who doesnt have a mental inballance!* I would read DTWOF and laugh at the older lesbian jokes as if they were my own, as if I were a world-weary queer with a thousand co-dependent “silly puddy” relationships under my turquoise studded belt. Seeing the characters together in their close knit queer chosen family made me believe that, no matter how alone I was now, that I would one day find my community, my family. DTWOF was proof that they were out there, and I don’t know how I could have made it through school without my friends Mo, Ginger, Clarice, Lois, Jezzana, Sparrow, Toni, and the rest of the gang to remind me of that. Thanks for giving me hope, AB! I know YOU will never let some mediocre musical artists buy the rights to your commic book, make a musical out of it, and cut out the trans characters! You are far too good for that.
    much love

  164. Kelseigh says:

    Ooh, brain sex. =^_^=

    On the subject of language, and loaded language at that, is anyone else bothered by Aunt Soozie’s intonation of the dreaded word “patriarchy”? Which mention, of course, is in itself patriarchal, since it’s a not-too-subtle reference to “them uppity trannies is actin’ like MEN!”. Isn’t acting like men what the patriarchy accuses feminists of when they wouldn’t stop standing up for themselves?

    The irony makes my head hurt.

  165. Anonymous says:

    Amen Aunt Soozie!

  166. Elizabeth Flora says:

    I suspect that learning how to be a great parent/adult for an M-to-F child is not something I’d readily learn at the Michigan WBW fest. I’m out enough, and old enough, and schooled enough to relish second-wave feminism’s amazing and still important lesbian feminist seperatist voices: these are my roots. Why is it, however, that I think that those voices — say of Jill Johnston, Charlotte Bunch, and Adrienne Rich — would at this juncture, be more concerned about the inticacies of the gender-queer continuum than bio-woman only land. I confess that I’m troubled that Michigan WBW can’t fold the woman/womyn end of the gender-queer continuum into its present state. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking for Janis who is trying to keep her body estrogen-centric which will inform the depth its “feminine” performativity for the rest of her life. If her testosterone is allowed to explode, then her biological expression permanently takes on another type of hormonal express regardless of future hormonal therapies and surgeries … the very same hyper-testosterone mode that is presumably absent from the eight year-old-and-under bio-boys who are permitted onto the Michigan WBW grounds. Seems like the WBW at Michigen would want an ally like Janis … at least I do.

  167. Hypatia says:

    Hear hear! I’ll heartily second FTM’s experience of reating DTWOF in early adolescence. Alison, your strip made all the difference. I’d say there were a few major books that I read when I was coming out (14-15) that helped me to realize 1) that I was a dyke, and 2) that being a dyke could be something wonderful and empowering and politically engaged:
    1. DTWOF
    2. Our Bodies, Our Selves
    3. Annie on my Mind
    4. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (John Boswell)
    5. Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers and Surpassing the Love of Men (Lillian Faderman)
    Reading these books really made it clear to me not just that queer was ok, but that queer was something that connected to a whole host of other political and social issues of burning importance. And they also (particularly DTWOF (obliquely) and Boswell’s book (directly)) made me really aware of the possibilities for truly radical scholarship–academic work that could change the way people understand themselves, the past, their bodies, and their commuities.

    There wasn’t any particular book about trans folk that had a similarly important impact for me (and maybe that makes sense, since I’m not only not trans, but am also pretty gender normative). But for my qualifying exams last year I read an awesome autobiography of someone who may have been a transman, and who certainly lived as a dude sometimes and as genderqueer always:
    The Autobiography of Mrs. Charlotte Charke (1755) (she was the daughter of the actor and playwright Colley Cibber, for those of you nerds for whom that 18th c. name would ring a bell) is about a woman who came from a theatrical family, worked as an actress (briefly for Fielding before he ditched a failed career at playwrighting for the novel), passed as a man (Mr. Brown) for much of her adult life, and travelled with a woman named Mrs. Brown (cuuuurios, Watson, cuuurious). A well written biography of Charlotte Charke has also come out recently.
    Also, has anyone seen By Hook or By Crook? I found it really sweet and sad and affecting. Not to mention sexy.

    Hmmm. . . now I’m very off the MichFest topic. Ah well, thanks to everyone who made this discussion an interesting one.

  168. Em says:

    This may sound like a stupid question, but if a transwoman has had all the surgery, couldn’t she still be able to attend MWMF? I mean if she doesn’t have a penis anymore, what are the ticket sellers gonna do, administer a DNA test? (I actually recently learned in my Gender Theory class that the Olympics used to do genetic testing to make sure the female athletes are really women and not men in disguise, [this is a whole seperate issue from being trans of course])

    This whole debate reminds me of this guy in my Hillel chapter who isn’t allowed to go on the Birthright Israel trip (a free 10 day trip to Israel given to Jewish college students who haven’t been there on any organized program before) because as a Messianic Jew, he’s not “Jewish enough.” I went on Birthright a couple years ago, and at the check-in gate in JFK to board El Al the checkers were asking us random questions about our Jewish education, or random quizes on stuff we learned (or were supposed to learn but slept right through) in Hebrew School, to make sure we really are Jewish. It was surreal, to say the least.
    Personally, I feel the LEAST “like a woman” in women-only spaces. Then again I am basing this on my freshman year dorm which was all girl… and the sorority dorm no less. As a chubby, olive-skinned, black-frizzy haired gal I stuck out like a sore thumb among the sea of skinny, perky blonde chicks. But even outside of that particular experience, when I am in groups that happen to be all girls I always feel like I’m too crass and weird and I don’t belong. Or maybe it’s that I was raised with two older brothers that I’m really close to, and never grew up with female role models (I always tried to do the opposite of what my mother did:) Hell, sometimes I almost feel like a drag queen in a straight woman’s body, I don’t know. I do support the inclusion of transwomen in MWMF but more than that I’m a bit cynical about women’s-only spaces being a safe haven. After years of being teased and tormented and gossiped about by women I am unable to think of every single woman on the planet as “my sister.” Of course I was also bullied by guys as well, so really I say to hell with the whole human race:) No this isn’t in response to anyone in particular, this is just late night, pointless venting. These really are interesting responses and I wish I could say something more profound.

  169. Ann S in Madison says:

    My, but this is a dynamic and articulate set of people. AB, you are one lucky dyke to be surrounding by so much talent in your fan base.

    I just wanted to thank all the posters hereto for your contributions, and especially to the yummy cerebellums (cerebella?) of Kelseigh, Maggie Jo and Aunt Soozie for sheer elegance and word power.

    Though, K, in your last post I thought I caught a whiff, just a skosh, of competition and even…obstinacy? A titch, is all. Sorry darlin’– jes callin’ ‘em like I see ‘em.

    Maggie J, I am deeply grateful to you for your articulation of many, many things on this page. And I wanted to tell you that your story reminded me of how Gandhi asked his dear friend Charlie Andrews to leave the Indian independence movement and return to his native England, as the way Andrews could do the “most good” for Gandhi’s campaign. It must have been heartbreaking, while undeniably the best way.

    Thanks again to all. I am proud to be among you.

  170. lyssa says:

    Kelseigh,

    ‘Be careful with that truth, Eugene!’

    Kelseigh, A word of warning: Aunt soozie is name calling. She is refusing to make her arguments respectfully available. How? She’s implicitly threatening our identities with slurs like “patriarchy’ and denying you the right to be heard as an equal, a right she demands for herself.
    Her effect seems to be anger, and I think that that was part of her goal. That language will not help you to be heard, Aunt Soozie. There are ways of being respectful and honest without giving up your beliefs.

    So, please clarify your use of the word patriarchy. When you accuse a woman of being patriarchal, exclude her for a happenstance of birth, and insult her when she protests, you OWE her an explanation. If you exclude an entire single class of women, your explanation had better be compelling, because that is a high price to pay for your protected space.

    When you said:

    Do I have to prove that I deserve and/or need it?

    I am not in a position to decide that. That’s YOUR job. The question should be “Is it OK to be the beneficiary of privilege at someone else’s expense?” How much expense is OK? How much privilege is involved? And be aware that you don’t have the complete answer to any of these. You can’t, any more than I can fully onderstand “WBW” If you included transwomen (the target group here) any claim that you are exclusionary would be on thin ice…Flatly denying the validity of the question is exclusionary. Analysing it in good faith with people who do not agree with you will give you an inclusive answer. The Last Word? NO. But it’s a start…

    Your previous post (September 22nd, 2006 at 2:49 pm) is a good example of inclusive thinking. At least to me.
    You may want to take this into account in future posts, Soozie.

    Kelseigh, What a beautiful argument about “WBW.” May I use it, with credit?

    Elizabeth, Good point. A concern: Adrienne Rich was credited with helping Raymond write …TS Empire.. Could she have evolved past her thinking of transwomen? Or would she be as entrenched as some of the “WBW” crowd is?
    If she could, she would have MY respect…
    If you would have me, I would welcome you as my ally, Elizabeth.

  171. Anonymous says:

    Soozie –

    “is the fear that if we exclude transwomen from michigan we’ll deny these women their identity everywhere?
    fail to see these women for who they are anywhere?
    prohibit them from living as the women that they are in the world at large? not respect their identity in general?”

    See the rest of the thread: it’s happening now, and women are dying of it, and it’s rooted in the same sort of fear-based loaded language and exclusivist thinking that the MWMF boards display.

    –Gramina
    born and now female, but definitely not WBW-identified until the rhetoric improves.

  172. lyssa says:

    FTM here: OMG, me too! Only I didn’t know the word “genderqueer” (it was the 70s) so I called myself “ambigender.” I found DTWOF much later…
    Hypatia: Good to meet you. Seems we have a crew o dykes who think AB rocks!

    cicely: Beautiful post! It points out the problem when ideologies collide- things get broken. Important things. Things that might be impossible to construct. Peoples’ lives. People forget this too easily. Thank you for reminding all of us.

    Em: She would be an unwelcome attendee potentially subject to violent removal. Google “Nancy Burkholder” to find out more. Best wishes. -Lyssa

    Thanks for another evening of insight. Good night, all and be well.

  173. lyssa says:

    Thank you, Anon.

  174. clara lemlich says:

    So now it’s time to join the other 3:30 am posters– it’s my second time posting on this blog, but i read it pretty regularly. Have been following this whole string since it started and, ’till now, was mainly trying to imagine what Alison was thinking and wondering what her next post would be.

    Didn’t feel like I needed to weigh in, everything’s been said already (though I had no idea exactly how f*cked up birthright israel trips were/are, i just knew about the zionist bent overall. yikes. hope folks know about ‘birthright unplugged’ and the great work they’re doing). And yes, DTWOF was formative in my formative years and I loved the tip o’the nib to Samuel Lurie, etc, but didn’t feel like I had to post about this.

    But then seeing ‘Aunt Soozie’s’ posting– and Ann in Madison’s (and I realize, Ann, that you were commending both/all sides, but still)– two people whose previous posts to this blog I’ve valued– made me realize that I, as a fem, queer woman living fairly comfortably with the gender I was designated/’born’ with, needed to say how incredibly disapointing it is to realize that this virtual community is, to a large degree, made up of folks who I very well might not want to be in community with.

    “Aunt Soozie” asserts that there are other festivals that are more inclusive– where? I’m from Michigan originally, had a really incredible experience there 14 years ago when I was 21 and haven’t gone back because of the woman born woman nonsense. About 10 years ago I helped to organize a festival celebrating Appalachian LGBT cultures in New Market, TN that connected across race, class, queer, gender identity, ability, age and other lines. It lasted for one day and was amazing– but I don’t know of many others like it since.

    Not only do I agree with Em about not necessarily always feeling supported in ‘woman-born-women’ only space, I’m realizing that I can only feel truly supported/myself/’safe’ when I’m with people who recognize that (pardon the cliche) none of us are free ’till all of us are. That’s my community, no matter what genitals we’re born with. There’s some great Jewish festivals that happen where I could enjoy my ‘safe space’ being surrounded only by other Jews– but I don’t go, because I know that many of the organizers are not against the occupation and so it’s too painful to be so close to that feeling of community and yet so far. Same for some of my labor circles– great folks who’d never cross a picket line, but try to get them to deal with racism and it’s a whole different thing.

    And so it is with MWMF. I’ve got lots of respect for Lynnee Breedlove and the others who are doing great work from the inside. As always, tons of respect for Alison as well. Try to read her strip, people.

    l’shana tova and ramadan mubarek….

  175. Kathy says:

    “Isn’t it enough to say that this difference is meaningful to me? Isn’t it enough to say that I’d like to be in a space for one week, once a year with wbw?”

    No it’s not, the burden of proof is on you. The festival has practiced discrimination for the past 15 years and is now demanding that that women not attend a women’s festival because of our past. You are denying us an incredible opportunity. I don’t think it’s too much to ask what it is that is applicable in the festival to only non-transwomen.

    “is the fear that if we exclude transwomen from michigan we’ll deny these women their identity everywhere?”

    That’s exactly what’s happening. There are other festivals and women’s rights conferences that ban transwomen from attending. And the MWMF message board has in the past had organizing around prohibiting transwomen from accessing other women’s spaces.

    The reason Mich has been a lightning rod for this is because it is the largest, most important, most archetypal, and largest symbol. It could have happened elsewhere, but it was the right time and place because of a very high profile removal of a transsexual woman from the festival. It was the right time and place.

    The “lavender menace” takeover of the Second Women’s Congress which solidified the right of lesbians to participate in the women’s movement didn’t have to happen at the Second Womens Conference, it just did. It was the right time and place.

    And anyone who favors discrimination against transwomen in women’s spaces should really look at the issues which surrounded lesbians in women’s spaces. All the same arguments were used. Lesbians aren’t “real women.” We make straight women uncomfortable. And so on.

    But, I really want to get back to that basic principle. What is at Michigan that is relevent to no-trans women that is not relevent to all women.

    I just looked again at the schedule or workshops. Creating Intentional Women’s Communities Womyn’s Rhythms and Songs, Grants for Individual Artists, Confronting the Religious Right.

    And it’s kind of hard to claim that watching Melissa Ferrick or the Ditty Bops will somehow be a significantly different experience if among the 3500 or so women there are a dozen or two who some years earlier had different plumbing.

  176. Kelseigh says:

    Of course, Lyssa. I hold no copyright. =^_^=

    And thank you for the compliment, Ann S. I do come off as a little obstinate at times, but that’s not surprising. I’m an Aries *and* strongly ENFP, with Irish blood on my mother’s side (I’m even a redhead!) and my role models have all been strong, independent women who weren’t about to lie down and let men walk all over them. Or anyone, for that matter.

    As to “why Michigan”, it’s precisely as Kathy says. Because Michigan is so open about it, and so influential still in the women’s community. To a lot of women’s communities, it’s a big deal to send “delegates” to MichFest, because aside from the atmosphere (which I do not believe would be changed by adding diversity), it’s a place where representatives of communities all over the continent, at least, can get together. And some of them bring the anti-trans message and justifications back with them. This is why I call the attitude subtle and virulent, and one of the main reasons I oppose it as strongly as I do.

  177. Kelseigh says:

    Oh, I should add that when supporters of the policy (There Is No Policy!) talk about all the inclusive women’s spaces, they’re including spaces that allow men, spaces that are not open to all women, conferences that don’t really compare directly in an apples-to-apples way, and a few spaces that *were* inclusive but have since started to take on the same self-justifications for exclusion as MichFest.

    It’s a bit disingeneous, but then so is Ms. Vogel’s use of WBW, so why not?

  178. Jennifer Brooks says:

    My philosophy is pretty simple: when I want to be surrounded only by people whom I feel completely “safe” with, I stay home in my living room and invite personal friends over to visit.

    But when I want to go out in public, I am fully aware that I can’t control everything around me. Even in public events that have controlled access: anyone could be there. They might be just as “wbw” as I am, but they could still be noxious to me in plenty of ways.

    (In fact, during the years I worked at the West Coast women’s music festival, other women were sometimes obnoxious to me in all kinds of ways. Women (with small breasts) said cruel things to my large-breasted partner about the fact that she was wearing a brassiere. Women in teeny-tiny shorts gave me shit for wearing a mini-skirt. Etc. Hmm, maybe that’s where I developed such a pragmatic attitude, come to think of it.)

    So again I say: if you want to be completely safe, stay home and enjoy your living room. If you want to join the public world, accept that you can’t control everything around you.

  179. K says:

    It distresses me that we are using the experience of being oppressed, repressed, abused, etc.–as groups, not as individuals–to justify our “right” to, as Imogene put it, “gather away.”

    For the record, I don’t know a ton about MichFest but I think if you identify as a woman you should be able to walk right in. No matter what somebody else says…So if that’s cleared up:

    It isn’t really useful, in terms of growing beyond and opposing oppression, to use it as a yard stick to decide who gets to be separate and who gets to come in. “I’m more oppressed”–or rather “We’re more oppressed, so we get to be separate.” “I’m more privileged, so I shouldn’t come into this space” are fine personal decisions, I suppose, but as group policies they keep us mired in our sense of ourselves as victims. It equates victimization with entitlement. So to keep certain things we may find ourselves wanting, we have to keep a certain sense of being victims. That’s not just counterproductive, it’s disingenuous.

  180. K.B. says:

    OK, I’m going to weigh in with a complaint: the web design of this blog makes it impossible to read this discourse. The lines are too long. And someone has forced a fixed line length or window width on this page. If it were a printed page, at least I could put my finger on the page to keep track of the line, but I dont’ want fingerprints all over my computer screen!

    Please, please, someone do something about this!!!

  181. Maggie Jochild says:

    Question, then (and this is a serious question) for everyone who wants Michigan to change it’s current policy to one that is “trans-friendly”:

    What is your definition of trans-friendly? Who, SPECIFICALLY, would you grant admission to?

    Since “trans” is a term that includes (but is not necessarily limited to):
    (a) people who identify as transgendered, whether or not they also identify with another gender (so some of these people will assuredly not identify as women)
    (b) people who identify as MtF and who likely identify as women
    (c) people who identify as FtM and who likely do not identify as women
    (d) people who are cross-dressers but do not necessarily identify as a gender other than that which they were raised, which means perhaps half of this group would not identify as women

    If your definition of a “trans-friendly” admission policy for Michigian would include only one or more of the above trans categories, how is that not “transphobic” by your definition (not mine)?

    If your definition of a “trans-friendly” admission policy for Michigan would include all of the above trans categories, then can you at least admit that it would no longer be a “women’s” cultural event, and that what you are requesting is not “inclusion” but a complete removal of all admission criteria?

    I’m hoping for honest answers here to these questions, not attacks or attempts to change the subject.

  182. Maggie Jochild says:

    P.S. Ann of Madison — I’ve never had anybody call my cerebella “yummy” and it’s one of my favorite compliments of all time! Talk about stepping outside the “looks” box. You rock.

  183. K.B. says:

    I found out what’s the problem: the width of the comic strip determines the width of the page. That has to be fixed.

  184. Zombie says:

    Brains!

  185. Deb says:

    I too like the idea of a “yummy cerebella”. Never though of it that way at all!

  186. Kelseigh says:

    Maggie: I have to wonder as to the purpose of your question. I’ve seen that, and similar, used too often to prop up the canard that allowing trans women into Fest would open the door to all sorts of horrors, including but not limited to “male bodied” individuals and some guy driving up to the site, tossing on a dress and going in so he can look at all the titties.

    The fact is, this is something that can be negotiated and dealt with on an administrative level, in terms of what’s feasible and what maintains the safety of attendees. What’s important here, on the level we’re discussing, is the will to move ahead, and to be honest at this point I don’t see much of that apparent on the part of Fest.

  187. Wendy says:

    Thanks to everyone who responded, pondered my posts.
    FTM – I totally agree with you that everyone who steps out of the “normal” gender box they are assigned gets oppressed.
    I wanted to talk about the oppression of boys and men because I think for everyone’s sake it is so important to stop it. When boys are taunted, shunned, beat up, etc etc because they aren’t acting/ dressing/ looking like people think boys should, and then told by everyone to just get over the hurts, be tough, this is not a good thing. Looked at this way, I think the Michigan policy is a bad one. Which is what I thought when I went to the Michigan Festival many many years ago (before they moved to the “new” place).

  188. cicely says:

    I’m interested to hear too exactly what it is that WBW only supporters feel they would lose if transwomen were welcomed into michfest. I realise this might be difficult to put into words because I’m not asking for a list of experiences WBW have that transwomen don’t. For example – dealing with the embarrasment and awkwardness around the commencement of menstruation at an early age. If we take such differences as given – what is is it beyond that? See, as a lesbian who self-identified very young in the mid 1960′s and was in the closet until age 19, my whole life experience of being WBW has been very different from that of a heterosexual WBW who is nevertheless welcomed into what is primarily a lesbian festival. Not a little of the oppression I’ve experienced has been at the hands of heterosexual WBW in fact. (and some even at the hands of lesbian-feminists.) I’m not for a moment suggesting that heterosexual women *shouldn’t* be welcome, but I do think there’s quite a grand scale of difference there which has been accomodated, so why can’t this be extended to transwomen and their different experience again – of womanhood? (side comment: I suspect some WBW don’t admit even to themselves that they experience a degree of transphobia. It’s well hidden in and behind the political rhetoric and other justifications for the exclusion of transwomen. In fact it may even be expanded upon in those processes in which differences are being focused on so heavily.)

    As I’ve said earlier, and someone else may have said too – WBW are always going to vastly outnumber transwomen at any large gathering – we wouldn’t lose the ‘sameness’ of our experience, or our ability to share and honour it by also embracing the different experience of transwomen. Also, apparently a small number of known and unknown transwomen have always attended the festival – from its inception – and the sky hasn’t fallen in. What are WBW holding on to that’s so important it requires this separation? What are you thinking and feeling that I’m not – from one WBW to another? When we weigh up what the separation costs against what it achieves in the women’s community overall, what makes it ‘worth it’ to you?

    I ask these questions appreciating that many ‘WBW only intention’ supporters don’t feel they should be obliged to explain themselves, but I really want to understand, from anyone who’s willing, and particularly from WBW who don’t come from a ‘transexuals should be working/thinking politically to make themselves eventually non – existent by changing society instead of their own bodies’ position because I reject that out of hand. I take what transexuals say about their own experience to be their reality as I expect others to do for me.

  189. Anya says:

    I will second the request for threaded comments… this is a perfect example of a thread in which I would have LOVED to skip the MWMF discussion and see if anybody was actually discussing the wonderful strip!

    This is just what I expected Janis to do btw! I really love that the strip is representing these issues. And I agree I would love to see what happened with Jezanna and also with the woman who worked as the buyer in the store.

  190. cicely says:

    Maggie Jochild Says:
    Question, then (and this is a serious question) for everyone who wants Michigan to change it’s current policy to one that is “trans-friendly”:

    What is your definition of trans-friendly? Who, SPECIFICALLY, would you grant admission to?

    Since “trans” is a term that includes (but is not necessarily limited to):
    (a) people who identify as transgendered, whether or not they also identify with another gender (so some of these people will assuredly not identify as women)
    (b) people who identify as MtF and who likely identify as women
    (c) people who identify as FtM and who likely do not identify as women
    (d) people who are cross-dressers but do not necessarily identify as a gender other than that which they were raised, which means perhaps half of this group would not identify as women

    If your definition of a “trans-friendly” admission policy for Michigian would include only one or more of the above trans categories, how is that not “transphobic” by your definition (not mine)?

    I think michfest should be open to anyone who currently identifies and lives 24/7 as a woman. Whether or not this should be post SRS or not I’m not sure, but I lean towards not because of the affordability issue. That’s something there’d need to be a full discussion about though. I would not regard excluding others on your list as transphobia any more than I regard michfest as misandry. (hatred of men – opp. of misogyny – the word doesn’t appear in all dictionaries!!!) It’s a women’s cultural event.

  191. Shayna Helena says:

    I am grateful for the transgendered in my community, as I am grateful for the Jewish converts (as well as for those otherwise Jewish-identified) in my community. In both cases (there may be crossover between these two communities as well) which makes for a richer, more informed, stronger community.

    I am fortunate to live in a Jewish community that includes lesbian Rabbis and lay-leaders, as well as heterosexual women lay-leaders, which include converts. In this congragation’s infinite wisdom, it decided some 35 years ago to include women as adults in religious services. Without their leadership the congregation I belong to would not exist, as there weren’t, and aren’t enough men today leading and participating in services, by themselves, to maintain anything close to a continuous offering of services.

    There is a MTF in my community who is doing feminist work that I am not courageous enough to do myself. To site of example, she’s a musician and when she plays out where there are children she models a wider range of musicianship possibilities for girls, speaking out about the long but poorly documented tradition of women playing the instruments she plays.

    If the transgendered and the converts are ready and willing to do work I am afraid of doing myself, how can I possibly exclude them from full membership in the societies I was born into?

    My answer is, I cannot exclude them. Whatever personal feelings I have about the differences in experience and upbringing between me and my transgendered and convert community members are just that, my personal feelings, and they have no place in public policy decisions.

    I include MWM as part of a public policy debate, since it is a 30+ year institution, even if it is a privatly funded and run organization. It’s influence is too wide to be considered outside that debate.

    And I think that’s why it’s such a hotly debated topic, because, as goes MWM so goes the world.

    For further discussion and illumination readers here may also want to go to: http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/2006/09/22/the-non-trans-privilege-checklist/

  192. zeitgeist says:

    Oh God! It’s 2006. Are they still having issues at Michigan? I can’t believe it! I never understood the women born women thing 20 years ago, and I don’t get it now. If you say you are a woman, then you are a woman. I don’t think others should make that judgement!

  193. Kathy says:

    This “what kind of trans” has never been an issue. It’s one of these things the anti-trans people raise to cause distractions. The issue is women.

    I want to see MWMF for all women regardless of our history.

    I’m a woman when I deal with the men who have no clue how to turn on a computer, but feel like because they have a **** they need to second guess everything I tell them. I’m a woman when I go to buy a car and have to deal with the patronizing sales manager. I’m a woman when I’m alone in the parking lot at night and I wonder if someone’s going to jump out from behind another car and attack me. I’m a woman when I go to buy clothes and they’re put together like **** and overpriced. And I’m a woman when I go to get them cleaned and the price is higher. And I’m a woman when I go to look for a job and they offer me up a salary that’s 23% less than if I was a man. (Except I’m training to be a social worker, so the entire profession is underpaid because most of us are women.)

    I’m a woman for all that crap that society dishes out.

    That’s why we need women’s space.

    So why can’t I go away for one week with my sisters and listen to music and get away from all this crap?!

  194. NY Luvchild says:

    First: wow, Alison – did you think that one line in your comic would explode into this thoughtful, wide-ranging discussion on gender, inclusion, definition, segregation, etc? Your created world saved my life in college, when a lot of old-school dykes felt like I was too preppy to be a REAL lesbian, the fact that I still liked boys meant I wasn’t truly feminist, the fact that I question any ideology, including my own, meant I wasn’t truly LGB-identified. DTWOF gave me a community where people were smart, funny, and perfectly imperfect – the “Friends” I actually wanted to know.

    Second: I’m really happy that (unlike other threads on the Web) this one hasn’t exploded into a flame war. Everyone, for the most part, has tried to reach into their own experience and provide comments that advance the discussion while bringing their own context. Have you noticed that we can learn from each other within this community without being cruel to those who don’t hold our views? Let’s try to keep that up – we can all learn from each other.

    Third: How HOT are all the thoughtful, introspective, intelligent, well-spoken commenters on this topic? I feel like a voyeur at some type of cerebral orgy, so I’m going to stop lurking and speak.

    Last: My own (jumbled and conflicting thoughts) on the issue. I feel confused as a : Black, West Indian, Womyn-born Womyn (Never thought about THAT before), Survivor of sexual abuse, Queer (not dyke). Here’s the thing – sometimes in (single-sex) college, I would have dinner with a group of other Black students. Sometimes, it was an official UBS meeting, sometimes, it was just to shoot the $h!t. We wanted to be together. It took a while, but eventually some of my White friends asked what we were doing. We just wanted to be together, but somehow, it made them curious. What are they doing? What are they saying? Are they having fun without us? Us just hanging made them feel like there was something they couldn’t be part of. The type of friends that I have, however, are comfortable and cool with joining us for casual dinners, but respectful enough to skip actual UBS meetings. And I want it that way. On the other hand, I would feel really upset if my friends attended a Union of White Students meeting. Why is that? Why do I feel threatened by the concept of them celebrating their identity while I’m excluded? Do those who are excluded always feel left out? I don’t want to be the one to make another person feel less-than.

    On the other hand, I left a LGBT meeting at law school, talking with a transgender alum. We walked down the hall, and I turned toward the (women’s) bathroom. When she followed me in, I was distinctly uncomfortable. I walk around the locker room at the gym, comfortable in my nakedness. I would feel the same discomfort if a transgender person got out of the pool with me and followed me into the showers. Why is that? What are my beliefs about gender? Politically, I’ve always felt that gender should be self-identified. So, why do I internalize these external concepts?

    The only conclusion (and it isn’t very conclusive) I can come to is that the Festival excludes people, and they have that right. But we should also question why we feel a sense of comfort and safety (?) by excluding people who weren’t born to our gender but who HAVE chosen that gender. People who have undergone surgery and some societal resistance to choose their gender. People who have never felt comfortable in the skin of that other gender we want to exclude. I know I feel bad when people don’t want me to come to their tea party. I don’t want to make someone else feel that way. Would it be possible to have some part of the Festival that is open to those who are transgender?

    Please accept these jumbled thoughts as my earnest attempt to try to understand the pain on both sides of this issue.

    P.S – Maggie Jochild: I love your thoughts. I love the clarity and passion with which you express yourself. I love the compassion you bring to those who oppose your viewpoint. BUT – when you say “it isn’t about you,” that can’t be wholly true. All exclusion, and inclusion is exclusion, BTW, is about me, you, us, not-us. Sometimes, I need that. But, if someone asks often enough, and they’re genuine in their request, can’t we find some honest, compassionate way to honor their desire to be included?

    Lyssa – thank you for your honesty. When someone disagrees with you, it takes strength to admit that “It’s easy to slip into guilt, easy to lash out, easy to denigrate without facts. And it’s so painful to listen sometimes. And such hard work. With no guarantee that the other parties will return the favor.”

    Stupid question – how does the Festival handle male children?

  195. Kathy says:

    I never chose my gender. Really, would anyone choose this?

  196. Tres's aunt says:

    Isn’t anyone going to say anything about those bugs in Alison’s basement? I’m afraid her whole house is going to collapse. I think they’re termites, but I don’t know why they’re dying. Maybe residual DDT? Take a look at this and tell me I’m wrong to be alarmed:http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://citybugs.tamu.edu/FastSheets/images/ant%2520termite%2520comparison.jpg&imgrefurl=http://citybugs.tamu.edu/FastSheets/Ent-1006.html&h=314&w=400&sz=13&hl=en&start=1&tbnid=pjwj2k4X5yov2M:&tbnh=97&tbnw=124&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dants%252Bwings%26svnum%3D10%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D%26sa%3DG

  197. Kelseigh says:

    Mmm, I agree with you, Kathy. Calling it “choice” is misrepresenting it a little, since it implies this is something relatively trivial, and we could have chosen not to without serious consequences. Which, as we both know, is not the case. But I do admit that to someone who hasn’t gone through it, that’s a bit hard to process.

    Which brings me to your comment, Luvchild. I am really impressed with your honesty, and far more impressed with your choice (there’s that word again) to examine and challenge your preconceptions, rather than justify them and carry on with no change. Gender, particularly when dealing with gender variance, can be a confusing, challenging concept, and a lot of people retreat from that challenge. I don’t blame them for it, if I wasn’t put in the position of going through it myself, I might not have examined it closely either.

    Let’s focus on what you said about the transgender (or likely transsexual, which is a bit more accurate I suspect) alum. From what you say, it seems that you accepted her as a female in a neutral setting (conversation in public), but when you entered a highly gendered setting (women’s washroom), your perception changed to “not woman”. What impresses me about you is that you immediately turned that on yourself and asked “why did my perceptions change”, rather than blaming the alum, who hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary. The admission of that is commendable, as is the questioning, and I wish more people would do that.

    That’s the root of discrimination, though. Taking a gut reaction and rationalizing it, rather than examining it and holding it up to the light, and saying “maybe it’s me”.

  198. Kelseigh says:

    Oh, all this reminds me of something I often say about transition, and I thought I’d share it.

    Transition is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

  199. Anonymous says:

    Kathy, yes, I would choose being a woman if I had the choice. I love being a woman and the challenges and obstacles provide no end of opportunity for me to hone my skills as a debator and higher level of being. LOL

  200. Wendy says:

    Stupid question – how does the Festival handle male children?

    When I went, back in the early 80′s they didn’t allow male children on the property at all. I can’t remember if they made an exception for nursing infants. There was a separate boy’s camp nearby that was ok. Nothing like the festival of course. I went over and helped out there one night for my work shift. We had a campfire, it was fun, but I definately felt sorry for the moms and kids who couldn’t be together. Now that I’m a mom I understand that there are all sorts of places where children are unwelcome.

  201. shadocat says:

    Kelseigh,

    I have been reading your comments on this board with interest and agreement. BTW, I am a WBW and you wiii always be my sistah!

  202. donnie says:

    My abusive, manipulative, junkie ex-girlfriend goes to michfest every year, one of the reasons I would never go. I don’t understand why she gets to go and troll for new girls to abuse but transwomen who are so less threatening are allowed in.

  203. Kelseigh says:

    Thank you, shadocat, that means a lot.

  204. donnie says:

    and by less threatening I meant they are women and should be let in and if you feel threatened by them then yeah, like said above, examine your own issues.

    oh, and i passed as a boy until i started growing breasts and hips at 15. I even got to go to boy scouts becasue my parents were rad and i had a gender-neutral name. So am i really WBW? I don’t think so. I can’t identify with your gender socialization maggie jochild. I don’t feel that much closer to a trans-womans childhood either. The childhood of a transwoman was a female childhood! read back to Kathy’s post on that subject, thanks kathy for your story!

    As for your checklist, maggie. When people say they want to make michfest trans inclusive, ,most of your categories would be inaplicable, becuase what they mean is they want you to let in the WOMEN to a womens festival. so, i think it follows rationally, that idf you dont identify as a woman, dont come in, but if you do then dammit, let her in!

  205. Kelseigh says:

    Is this the point where a policy (there is no policy!) supporter loudly claims that the categories are valid because that’s what Camp Trans’/YAB’s website says, and if you want inclusion you must be following their (admittedly overreaching) demands? ‘Cuz I’m going to bed, and I’d hate to miss it.

    Just sayin’, is all.

  206. donnie says:

    kelseigh,
    is your brain monogs? because I want to lick it too.

  207. lea says:

    was the wbw slogan originally intended to illustrate the fact that women do all the childbearing in the world but are rarely acknowledged? or did this slogan come up later only to specifically exclude trans-women?

  208. cicely says:

    I second being impressed by your honesty and willingness to examine your own response to a transwoman in a highly gendered space, Luvchild. And transwomen have to deal with those responses all the time.

    Maybe it’s worth pointing out that culture shock isn’t something that’s alien to the michfest experience either, as I understand it. Women are amazed to see what skills WBW have acquired, what they’re capable of in putting the festival together and running it despite all the obstacles they’ve had to overcome in the rest of the world to get to learn and do these things. (I think that’s something that needs to be preserved too. By which I mean, if a transwoman acquired particular trade or professional skills as a result of previously held male priviledge, she should contribute to the festival in some other way. I don’t know how this would be managed, since some tranwomen may not wish to reveal their medical history while they’re known to have certain skills, but I think it’s important to do it somehow for some time yet. I trust that women can work this out.)

    Some women have a hard time initially with the amount of nudity, or the unfamiliar sight of bearded women, not to mention that of women wearing strap-on dildos. I’ve heard that some heterosexual women have experienced culture shock and discomfort at finding themselves for the first time in their lives in a small minority surrounded by thousands of lesbians. The point is to break through pre-conceptions and dis-empowering patriarchal values – to learn to accept, honour and celebrate everything about women, in all our diversity, as well as to heal from the pain and the damage done to girls and women as a result of our status in society in relation to men. If transwomen are women, and they are (and may always have experienced *themselves* as such, even if the world hasn’t) – how are they not part of this?

    Ok, so it might be a challenge. Why wouldn’t it be in the world we’ve all grown up in? If we don’t take it up though and the status quo remains at michigan (and exported out to the rest of the world), this has got to be a case of either ‘all women are equal, but some are more equal than others’ or ‘we don’t accept transwomen as women.’

    We need a breakthrough. Thirty years of this is a long time to still have no end in sight.

  209. FTM here says:

    Right on cicely! There are many ways that transfobia manifests itself, just as there are innumerable ways that classism and rascism and sizeism raise their ugly heads. Transfobia is NOT defined as exclusion of any and all transwomen from all exclusive spaces, Maggie Jochild, what it means in some cases, is that being excluded from a gendered space to which I belong based on my identification. Like, 4 example, I am denied entrance to mens spaces, even though i ID as one. This is also transphobia. I am denied health care access at the womens free clinic, which I need, because I still have female parts. Despite the fact that I have a vag and uterus and overies, I am still denied care there. This too is transphobia.
    So when we say we want the festival to be TRANS INCLUSIVE, we mean that transpeople who have a place, by definition of the space itself, to come it. Transwomen are denied access to womens spaces they desperately need, like domestic violence centers (as sister in struggle mentioned), cliniques, female job and resource centers, correction fascilities, and other places where WBW policies are in place, unspoken or implied, just as they are now at the MWMF. Being TRANS-POSITIVE means allowing trans people access to the spaces and resources of gendered spaces, to welcoming them, undertand them as valid, with valid identities that deserve every right, every chance, to flourish and to commune with their fellow humans, not to be isolated and denied.
    When wondering how we can be anti-racist, when wondering how we can not be homophobic, or sizeist, what any person who has workder toward these goals in any way is to tell you to listen to those minorities for the answer. Listed to people of color, listen to gays and lesbians and bisexuals, listen to people of size to find out how THEY would want to be treated. Do not decide for them, under the guise of being a fellow “sister in struggle” (direct quote from Lisa V. in her letter to Camp asking that tranwomen as “fellow sisters in struggle” respect “their right to create a space for WBW only”! No joke!) that they do not belong. Transwomen have voices their opinion on how MWMF can not be transphobic, be transpositive, be actual, for real “fellow sisters in struggle”: LET THEM IN!
    Really, what is there to loose? Only more oppressed women’s voices, resources, and strengths to are to be added to this valuable, one of a kind space of sharing and support.

  210. FTM here says:

    ps, sorry bout all the hurendous titles. Have been awake for 36 hours trying to finish work. Just another blue-collar tranny tryin to make it out in the actual world

  211. donnie says:

    god there are so many smart well spoken people posting on here. I wish i was that articulate. FTm, I think yr brilliant, but i have a question for you. I fully understand your need for access to women’s clinics and get so furious whenever I hear transpeople’s stories about being denied healthcare. (If anyone hasn’t seen the movie “southern comfort” go see it now)
    My question is, if you identify as male, Why would you still want access to a women’s social space such as michfest? does this have a connection to your stated denial of access to mens spaces?
    Can you explain to me why you want the festival to become trans inclusive instead of just admitting that, duh, transwomen are women and should be welcomed?
    It seems to me that by asking for entrance as an FTM you are underminign the argument that being raised and socialized as a woman is not a valid club for people to be kept out of or let into.
    If i identify my gender as male, or genderqueer, or houseplant, I wouldn’t want to go to michagan women’s festival becasue I was not a woman. If i was a transwoman, i would want to go becasue i am a woman.
    I bet you have a smart answer and i look forward to reading everyone’s opinions.

  212. bean says:

    this discussion has been so long, and i admitt, i have not been able to follow it all, and so i’ll probably end up repeating things that have already been said, so apologies. but, actually, that said, i haven’t really noticed anyone say this:

    that both sides of the discussion are valid.

    it is possible. i’ve been involved in a situation like this once before, where an organization i cared deeply about was split on an issue, and both sides honestly had the best interest of the the organization and the movement at heart, and both sides felt un-heard, offended, insulted, angry, and like the other side was being oppressive.

    i’m not trying to be all liberal, and everything is all even-steven, and “why can’t we all just get along?” here.

    i’m just saying, in this case, i think there are two very valid positions, and, apart from what i think, i don’t see that changing anytime soon.

    i feel tempted to argue for why i believe this, to argue for why i think the “less popular” position is also valid. but others on this list have argued both positions, and argued really well in many cases. so, nothing i could say would add more to that discussion.

    but one thing i’ve noticed is this:

    speaking in grand generalizations here, it seems that some lesbian feminists annoy the shit out of some trans women.

    and some trans women annoy the shit out of some lesbian feminists.

    i don’t think this is an accident. i think this is worth examining. i think it’s worth looking at why we annoy each other so much. and how can we stop. and why do we need each other. and when do we need each other. and what are our overlaps in experience and what common ground do we share.

    and before someone argues over the use of the word “annoy”, i want to say that the reason i think everyone is so emotional about this issue is that they see it, not as annoyance, but as an issue of life and death. i know this. it IS a matter of life and death. for all of us.

    but, also, some of us have been really really annoying. probably me too!

  213. Aunt Soozie says:

    My Dear Clara,

    I know you’ll think this over because you’re a reader and a thinker…afterall…

    Can we have this philosophical difference about MWMF and still be in community with one another?

    There isn’t a woman on this thread I wouldn’t welcome into my home, break bread with, join in a music festival with, welcome into the “girl’s room”…or the “boy’s room” for that matter if she’d wanna be there.

    I’m discussing the Michigan Women’s Music Festival and the choice of it’s founders to create a specific type of space.

    I’m listening to the discussion here and thinking…I haven’t been convinced otherwise but…I am open and I am willing to hear what folks have to say.

    Can we stand together in the larger Queer community even if we have a tent exclusive to women of color at Michigan or a Black Student Union at our school or an all girl’s school or a music festival for wbw or a closed support group for transwomen or a closed AA meeting or any other example of folks choosing an experience where they join with one another around their identity as an oppressed or misunderstood group and exclude others who aren’t in that group?

    It’s a difficult idea and laden with emotion. You can see it here…but, I’m still not ready to say, okay, open all the doors and never separate yourselves.

    I still believe that experience has tremendous value.

    I’m waiting to be convinced that there is some way to negotiate this issue at Michigan but when my concerns, feelings, ideas are invalidated outright or classified as phobic or dismissed as name calling or ignorance or worse yet…make me unworthy of being in community with you …how do we truly begin to dialogue?

    There’s an insistence at universalizing this issue. I’m still left wondering if desegrating Michigan is worth this much energy in a larger more universal struggle. Michigan as the symbol? as the important place to begin?

    I saw Holly Near recently and she said, we used the term “women’s music” but it was code for “lesbian music”. We couldn’t say “lesbian” back then but that’s really what it was…or as Holly said…we couldn’t even say “the L word” then let alone “Lesbian”…

    I know alot of younger dykes who have never heard of Michigan…and I don’t think, in the community of women at large, that the mwmf is well known. the mwmf is attended by a minority of a minority of a minority.

    I’d like a look at the stats for attendance…you know, other that the anniversary year, attendance has been going down…and it would also be interesting to look at the stats for the average age of the attendees…how much longer will Michigan exist? Oh no, now I’m really in trouble aren’t I?

    Well Clara…I’d like to join you and all of the women here for a nice meal and a long talk into the night but right now, not at the MWMF…in reference to other festivals that are inclusive, check out National…I’ll get the url for you.

  214. Aunt Soozie says:

    Clara,

    http://wiaonline.org/index.html

    this is the url for the parent organization for the nwmf.
    check out their list of performers for 06.
    okay…it’s not in the woods…don’t know how you feel about the whole camping experience. Personally, I prefer egyptian cotton linens with a nice thread count on a mattress that you didn’t have to inflate yourself, toilets that flush, in a bathroom with lavendar scented candles and electricity to power the dvd player at night and the expresso machine in the morning…but that’s for another discussion…

  215. Aunt Soozie says:

    oh bean,
    if I hadn’t been posting when you were posting I could have just shut up…thanks for not being annoying.

  216. Alex says:

    Thank you for every trans story you write, and the feckin’ irritation of hormones being openly available, yet somehow untouchable, all dependent upon the ‘objective wisdom’ of the parent. I want my damn androgens, bring on the Undecan!

  217. Kelseigh says:

    You leave one element out of your conclusions, bean. That is, a pretty significant number of transsexual women *are* lesbian feminists.

    Now personally, I’m not going to buy into the idea that “both sides are right” because I don’t think both sides are right, at least not in equal measure. Personally, I believe that the reasoning behind Michigan’s stance is shameful and buys into a lot of “thought experiments” that aren’t grounded at all in transsexual women’s truths. And to me, I cannot see how that is good for the movement or the organization. Similarly, I feel that changing attitudes and practices can do nothing but good for the Festival, and the movement as a whole. I’m not discounting everything said by Festies, but on this issue I don’t believe that there is a balance of “right”.

    Also, a note to donnie. My first guide in the rather rough road of transition told me something that was really representative of the things FTM has been saying. She described shortly before her surgery, she had been scheduled to get a corn removed from her foot. A minor, in-and-out procedure. When she got there, the surgeon refused on the basis that she was a pre-op transsexual. Her statement based on this experience, and unfortunately backed up by the experiences of others is, “When another woman goes to a hospital, she can be sure of the best care available. When a transsexual woman goes to a hospital, she can expect whatever level of care they feel like giving, if they are even willing to provide it at all.”

    And in most of North America and many other places, this is perfectly legal and acceptable.

  218. FTM here says:

    DONNIE,
    I have already stated in my previous posts that I do not desire access to Michfest! I have never been, and never will go as long as the policy exists in any form and I also dont belong there because I dont ID as a women.

  219. cicely says:

    Hey, bean, I think you’re right that both sides have valid arguements. That’s one of the things – if not ‘the’ thing that makes this issue so difficult to resolve. It’s why I made the personal decision (as a WBW) not to attend WBW events at all – i.e not support them, but not to actively protest them either. It’s a fence sit and I’m not comfortable with that, but I can’t fully resolve this thing in my own head as hard as I try. I go back and forward all the time, (some may have noticed this once now – even here..;-)) but I don’t personally feel a want, a need or a ‘right’ to exclude transwomen from any women’s space I’m in. On the other hand, who am I to speak for other women when there are transwomen who support WBW space at michigan and WBW who don’t? Am I just hoping WBW spaces will fade away? That WBW will stop feeling the need for them or stop feeling justified in having them because they necessarily involve excluding transwomen? Ultimately, wrt michigan, I think it is going to come down to each woman making her own decision, one by one, and there’ll be a kind of osmosis as some transwomen make the valid decision to not participate in what they experience as discrimination against themselves and attend the festival despite its ‘intent’ to be WBW only. There’ll be no sudden change of the intent though.

    The community healing and coming together openly and easily will have to be taking place elsewhere.

    I’m repeating myself here but in answer to your question, I do think much of the acrimony in this debate around michigan in particular comes about because of lesbian-feminist (and some radical feminist) political positions that you can read almost any day of the week on the festival discussion board. That’s a real can of worms but the bottom line is that the politics are dismissive of the realities of the transexual experience as explained by the people who are actually having it, and it’s these ideas that are getting nourished and supported – and exported out from the festival via the boards and the event. And many of the comments in debates over this are far from pleasant. In fact they’re downright ugly. If I supported WBW space at all, (and the reason I don’t is because the cost to the whole community is too high) it would be from the ‘inclusive’ rather than the ‘exclusive’ side – in that say, the festival is intended for women who have shared in common the *particular* experience of being born, raised and currently living as females in this world. Unfortunately, this can’t be separated out from the politics, in my opinion, despite the fact that many festival attendees don’t share them.

  220. cicely says:

    Kelseigh Says:

    You leave one element out of your conclusions, bean. That is, a pretty significant number of transsexual women *are* lesbian feminists.

    In my experience radical feminist or lesbian-feminist transwomen are supportive of the michigan WBW intent though. Is that true of those you know, Kesleigh?

  221. Kelseigh says:

    Well, in my experience a large number of MtF transsexuals are either lesbian, or as in my case bisexual with a strong leaning towards females (say, about a Kinsey 5 or even 5.5). Most trans women I have known are, to some extent, feminists, ranging from mild approval of feminism and feminist goals, to enthusiastic workers on behalf of feminist groups and strong speakers on behalf of feminist goals. Some, like I believe Kathy if memory serves, identify as radical feminists. As I’m not a radfem, although a feminist, I’m not really qualified to say what their motivations are.

  222. donnie says:

    FTM says-”So when we say we want the festival to be TRANS INCLUSIVE, we mean that transpeople who have a place, by definition of the space itself, to come it. Transwomen are denied access to womens spaces they desperately need, like domestic violence centers (as sister in struggle mentioned), cliniques, female job and resource centers, correction fascilities, and other places where WBW policies are in place, unspoken or implied, just as they are now at the MWMF. Being TRANS-POSITIVE means allowing trans people access to the spaces and resources of gendered spaces, to welcoming them, undertand them as valid, with valid identities that deserve every right, every chance, to flourish and to commune with their fellow humans, not to be isolated and denied.”
    I agree with everything you say here. I just thought you were also arguing for transfolk who don’t identify as women to be accepted into MWMF. I didn’t read clearly, I had just woken up. forgive me.

    and kelseigh, yeah I live with 6 people. 2 of them a re transwomen. I’ve gotten thrown out of a hospital by security for punching a nurse after they refused care to my housemate because she was trans. I know I shouldn’t have punched her, but they’d already kicked my friend out and i was so mad. we ended up travelling really far to another hospital where people were nicer but yeah, its so dependent on luck.

  223. Kathy says:

    “radical feminist or lesbian-feminist transwomen are supportive of the michigan WBW intent”

    Not that I’ve seen.

  224. Kelseigh says:

    Honestly, Kathy, I believe it’s the other way around. Those supportive of the Intent tend to be radical feminists, more than the other way around.

    Also, cicely, a small caveat on the word “intent” in that from what I’ve seen here and elsewhere, this is not the original “intent” of MichFest, but rather something more recent, evolving from the justifications for ejecting Ms. Burkholder onwards.

  225. shadocat says:

    I think as far as those who support the “Intent”, I would
    ascribe the words “old fashopned” or “old-time” feminists, rather tham “radical”. One can still be pretty radical and have enough sense to know that not every evil and dangerous thing is the result of “the patriarchy” As a matter of fact, just because a person, place or thing has at one time been briefly associated with “maleness” does not make he, she or it automatically part of said “Patriarchy”.

    On a lighter note, somewhere back in these posts, I wrote about my straight, married sister who is frequently mistaken for a man? Well, actually, it’s only one man she’s mistaken for…I first noticed it when the teenagers I work with were going theough a packet of pictures we had just gotten developed. Apparently, the last few photos were ones I had taken at a family gathering…When a group photo surfaced of me, my sister and some nieces, there was an audible squeal among the teens. “what the hell was that for?”,I asked. “You didn’t tell us you knew Clay Aiken!”, was the answer.

    And yet, she would have no trouble getting into MWMF!

  226. LondonBoy says:

    Much earlier someone asked how a man would feel about someone FTM coming into a male-only space. Speaking for myself, I’d say he’s very welcome. I feel strongly that being male or female is something in the head, and not an issue of what plumbing we’ve been issued with, so any brother of Brandon Teena’s is a brother of mine.

  227. FTM here says:

    If only you ran the zoo, LondonBoy, if only.

  228. lyssa says:

    Kathy said:
    >“radical feminist or lesbian-feminist transwomen are supportive of the michigan WBW intent”
    >
    >Not that I’ve seen.

    And not this one, either

  229. clara_lemlich says:

    Aunt Soozie–

    Thanks for the link for the National Fest. I didn’t know that they had a specifically inclusive policy with regards to transwomen and/or transpeople, but that’s good to know. I prefer the camping thing (though I’m with you on the cotton sheets), so haven’t been as drawn to it, but as you said, this is another conversation.

    This may not be obvious from my post, but I’d be happy to eat dinner with you and I never wrote that you were “phobic” or think that you’re “name calling” or “ignorant.” But that’s really not the point. I’m happy to have all sorts of “philosophical differences” with many stripes of people, but what we’re writing about here has (as I know you know) real life implications for lots of folks. That’s why we’re all so passionate about it– ’cause it’s not just philosophical.

    I get that you’re offended or hurt or suprised that I might not want to intentionally be in community (which to me goes beyond sharing a dinner) with you, but here’s what I don’t get– if, as you wrote, “there isn’t a woman in this thread that you wouldn’t… join in a music festival with,” what’s the problem? Is ‘joining in with’ somehow different in your mind than changing the (non)policy? Or are trans women not women (i.e. when you say “there isn’t a woman in this thread…”)? I’m guessing you don’t think the latter, so what is it?

    The parallel to women of color tents (which make total sense to me) at MWMF would be WBW tents at the festival. It might get tricky to define and identify who gets to be/wants to be in that tent, but then that is often the case for the women of color tents too. And it’d be dicey in terms of where a woman of color who ids as a WBW would want to go, but then these kind of sucky choices are nothing new either. My point is what’s parallel to what. This is a festival for/of/by women. As many folks have been writing here, it’s never been defined beyond that, not as lesbian, as straight, not as younger women, not as older, etc. When women come onto the land they create the space they desire, including being in more specific community. My recollection was that there was a Jewish tent and that some women were breaking off from that to make a secular Jewish tent. There might be break offs from that to have a secular Jewish yiddishist tent. And then, at night, at meals, whenever, everyone’s in community together. So this dichotomy of opening doors/ separating ourselves that you present, I think, is false– at least in relation to MWMF.

    If women who id as WBW want to gather at the festival and have a discussion about what it was like the first time they got their period, or to discuss, amongst themselves, how they feel about trans-visibility and organizing, that can happen at Michigan. And if such discussions/spaces are designed at the festival and transwomen try to come into this space and/or disrupt it, I’d be right there to help call them out on this (as would many transwomen themselves). But honestly, I really don’t think that’ll happen. So, again, what is it?

    As for your very interesting question about Michigan as a symbol– for a while there when I’d get the Lesbian Connection in the mail and read folks going on (like we’re now doing here), I’d roll my eyes and think, perhaps like you, why put so much energy into this one little festival– but after reading this blog and following it all a bit closer, I see that for better or worse, this is where we’re at.

    It’s also not the only place that this struggle is playing out (or the first). By weighing in here, it doesn’t mean that I don’t spend as much or more energy joining transgender menace actions at HRC board meetings, or struggling through these conversations, in person, with friends. So while I agree that MWMF is attended by a small number of women (and, indeed, that many younger dykes haven’t heard of it), that’s not a reason to be less invested in the outcome of the dialog. It’s almost as if you’re admitting that there’s something messed up about the WBW thing, but you’re saying ‘don’t worry, it’s not impacting that many people anyway.’

    I want MI to continue to exist, because I want to be able to hang out with activists of all ages who’ve come before and will go on after me and share ideas and strategies around everything that all those tents discuss. I don’t want it to go down in flames as that place that became irrelevant because of its exclusivity. I don’t want younger women, younger queers, younger trans folks, etc. to just dismiss it and its contributions (into the present).

  230. Traditional Lesbian says:

    I heart transgendered people! You can come as a lesbian to my lesbian party anytime, and I’d be proud to come to yours.

    I hate the lesbians who are mean and exclusive to transgendered people. You suck.

  231. liz says:

    Just for info: National doesn’t have a specifically trans-inclusive policy, they have a specifically everyone-inclusive policy including men. National is not women’s/womyn’s space, it is a festival of women’s music that is open to everyone. As such I don’t think they are even relevant to this discussion.

    Better examples of women’s music festivals that are women-only but define “woman” in such a way that transwomen are included include the Ohio Lesbian Festival (http://www.ohiolba.org) and the Southern Womyn’s Festival (http://ww.gaywomyn.org).

    Apologies in advance for any typos, I cannot see the left third or so of the text box I’m typing into.

  232. tuflilbuttercup says:

    I find the term “Womyn Born Womyn” as used in this discussion is problematic. Most users of this term rightfully acknowledge the importance of gender identification as womyn* as more appropriate than current sexual anatomy. The framework would consider MtF as “Womyn Born Men”. However, the distinction of gender and sex is abandonded halfway though the phrase. In it’s current usage, it can only be expanded to:

    (womyn as a gender) born (womyn as sex)

    And it is not intended to be interpreted as

    (womyn of either sex (but gendered male)) born (womyn by sex)
    Because FtM is not welcome.

    nor

    (womyn by gender (of either sex) born (womyn by gender (but male sex )
    As FtM is not welcome, even if a person feels ze was gendered womyn from birth.

    In other words, the acronym WBW begins by accepting the trans audience and and then rejects that audience by naturalizing a connection between gender and sex. The abandonment of common ground is hidden inside the imprecision of language used. The application of the social conditioning argument to the phrase applies yet another definition of womyn that is also inconsistanty applied at the beginning and end of the phrase.

    It is likely that my expantion of this phrase reflects the true feelings and argument of a considerable number of the participants in this debate. What I seek to explain is that WBW is a reduction that can disguise some of the more unsavory aspects of this defintion while falsely projecting the legitimacy of an argument that remains inclusive of oppositional perspectives.

    I’m grateful and thankful for Sister in Struggle and lyssa for their similar arguments.

    Also, much gratitude to those who have mentioned the WBW has origins in Womyn Born *of* Womyn. For better or worse, the phrase has evolved as language tends to do. I also love that earlier defintions of WBoW can encompass the MWMF relevant essence in a MtF’s relationship to hir mother.

    *For the purposes of this argument, I’m taking on the construct of gender binaries. While this is a fabricated framework, it does manufacture a massive and real power dynamic that events like MWMF seek to address, escape, undermine, and eventually eliminate.

  233. tuflilbuttercup says:

    I wanted to follow up my previous post. Lisa Vogel attempts to address the problematic imprecise use of “Womyn Born Womyn” . In hir letter ze uses a womyn/womon distinction. The added precision this provides is laudable in its honesty of argument.

    Of course, there is the issue of origins of the classifier of “womon”. To what extend is this a word created by used within the trans community? To what extent is this a class label created outside the trans community? Probing the origins of this word may result in yet another microcosm of this entire debate.

  234. tuflilbuttercup says:

    Another clarificaion. The origins of using “womon” to *specifically* refer to MtF is what I’d like to highlight, rather than the full etymology of the word as an alternative to “women”.

    Okay. Done with revisions and postscripts now. I swear.

  235. Sir Real says:

    tuflilbuttercup, I would also add that not everyone is born of a woman nor indeed of a womon… this phrase is problematic from beginning to end.

    Jules Rosskam made a remarkable film about FtMs and their kids… “‘transparent’, a documentary about 19 female-to-male transsexuals living in the United States who have given birth and, in all but a few stories, gone on to raise their biological children.” http://www.transparentthemovie.com/

    And, I’m guessing there are many more who identify themselves as men or as a gender other than woman. (e.g.: Ignacio Rivera: Trans, Multi- gender Queer of color/ activist/ mother/ pretty-boi/ poet/ sexual
    liberationist http://www.ignaciorivera.com/index.html

  236. Kelseigh says:

    I have never heard “womon” used within the trans community.

    I consider this, in the context you have presented, to be a further attempt to separate trans women from every other sort of woman.

    The question I have for you, tufilbuttercup, is has the definition of “Womyn Born Womyn” actually evolved naturally, or has it deliberately been changed for more cynical reasons? Its use is quite pointed now, and far divorced from its original meaning, suggesting the latter.

  237. Kelseigh says:

    Oh, I should add that where you say “current sexual anatomy” at the beginning of your first message, tufilbuttercup, you might want to recognize that the Intent covers current *and* prior sexual anatomy, since post-op transsexuals are discouraged as well.

  238. cicely says:

    lyssa Says:

    Kathy said:
    >“radical feminist or lesbian-feminist transwomen are supportive of the michigan WBW intent”
    >
    >Not that I’ve seen.

    And not this one, either

    I started this, lyssa…or maybe bean did…:-) I’ve seen that radical feminist means different things to different people actually, so I should be more specific. I’m talking specifically about lesbian-feminists and radical feminists who are sympathetic to or outright believe in and support the ideas of feminists such as Janice Raymond, Sheila Jeffreys, Robin Morgan and Germaine Greer on transexuality. Briefly, these include that 1. MTF transexuality is a Trojan Horse full of men invading women’s spaces (as I saw someone describe Janice Raymond’s views in her book ‘Transexual Empire’) 2. Transexuality perse supports and entrenches patriarchally enforced gender roles. 3. The correct (and some even say *only*) feminist path is to transform society so that no-one feels a need to alter their own body to fit any gender. Gender will not be determined by genitalia and secondary sexual characteristcs but all manners of personal identity and presentation covering a wide spectrum will be equally acceptable in an ideal world.

    I’m ok with the last of these (be however you want to be), but I don’t agree that transexuality of itself necesarily supports or entrenches gender roles any more or less than cisgender(ism?) does. It just doesn’t. That’s not *the* reason for it. There’s a pretty wide range of gender expression among transwomen – which I’ve seen conveyed in net conversation thanks to many transwomen who’ve written about their own lives and experience.

    It all gets very deep and complicated and I’m being a bit simplistic maybe – but basically – there’s a common theme that absolutely everything is socially constructed – including sexual orientation – for all of us – transexual or cisgendered. Nothing at all is ‘hard-wired’ or innate. There is no ‘internal’ reality to match or not match an external one – it’s all imposed externally by society, so it’s society that has to change.

    You can see how, between women with this set of fundamental beliefs and those who don’t share them, things can get very heated in debates on the specifically *political* threads on the michfest board. *Heated* doesn’t cover it really. Toxic is more like it.

    But there are still also transwomen on the michfest board who *don’t* have the views of Raymond, Jeffreys et al, (I think only one or two do have some of them…) and do support the policy (non-policy) at michfest on the basis that WBW have the right to that inclusive time and space to themselves. Every view – all shades of pro and con – is represented by transwomen as well as by WBW. (I take my hat off to the all the transwomen there, whatever their view, who spend one heck of a lot of time correcting mis-information about transexuality as it appears on the board as if it were gospel, taking a lot of shit as well, to put it bluntly, and speaking from actual experience as opposed to political theory – and some can *still* support the festival being intended for WBW only.

    For me I guess this famous event – which may or may not be as famous now as it used to be – does legitimise a concept (WBW) that has wider implications – (if there, why not here? In prisons, in hospitals, in refuges, in aged care facilities etc) as has been said in this thread. Whether it’s so badly needed – apart from being a *right* – that cisgendered women may be prepared to sacrifice or ghetto-ise transwomen to have it – or not – then becomes the question.

    I wish the concept would just disappear, fade away, whatever. But the radfems I’m talking about are just going to keep on talking it up. At and around Michfest.

  239. shadocat says:

    I second that- this has been the first venue where I’ve read the term “womon” applied to MtF women.For many years, it has simply been used interchangably with the terms womyn.wimmin, and then womon, as in one female person. I suggest this recent attempt to assign “womon” to MtF women, as just another action by those reactionary feminists to further distance the trans community from the rest of the group.

  240. cicely says:

    To be clear – I’m not ok with the whole of no.3. Not ‘the only way’ bit. Just the bit that says we’re all ok. That might have been obvious by everything else I said – but I want to be sure!

  241. starrai says:

    Wait a moment….isn’t Stella older than Raffi? I thought she was by about a year.

  242. Kelseigh says:

    You remind me of something a Wise Woman told me once, cicely.

    Just because someone has wisdom, doesn’t mean they’re always right.

  243. Pam Isherwood says:

    Is that a breast in Janis’ t-shirt or a fold in the fabric – ?????

  244. Jude says:

    “Gender, the concept, the idea that we carry in our heads, is NOT a cultural invention. We are biologically programmed to distinguish male and female.”

    “Gender is not a continuum in the usual sense, like height or intelligence. The OVERWHELMING majority of people on the planet are unambiguously one or the other.”

    We are biologically programmed to distinguish by SEX, perhaps. But gender is a cultural construct that often, but not always, follows biological lines. What a given gender IS also varies by culture. “Women” in one culture are strong, in another weak. And then, shall we discuss the alternate genders that appear in so many cultures?

    “2) There are people who are not unambiguously one or the other — people with XXX or XXY chromosomes, or who got exposed to unusual levels of male or female hormones in utero, or whatever. BUT, their existence doesn’t mean that gender doesn’t exist, any more than a few ambidextrous people mean that being left- or right-handed is an illusion.”

    Again, we have the conflation of GENDER with SEX. I have done several presentations on the biology of intersex for my wife’s classes. I summarize:

    - there are chromosomal variants, as given by the poster (XO, XXY, XXX, etc) that sometimes result in ambiguous biological sex (these variants are further complicated by the fact that 20%-30% of individuals with these variants are mosaic for a normal cell line of 46, XX or 46, XY — how does someone like this determine zir biological sex?)

    - there are genetic variants, individuals who have some genetic error that results in genitalia and/or gonads that are contrary to the chromosomal basis or just ambiguous (what if someone has one ovary and one teste? or a gonad that’s half ovary and half teste? or has a lump of tissue where the gonad should be?)

    - there are morphological variants, individuals who, despite having normal chromosomes and normal genes, just don’t develop correctly — there is a sizeable percentage of women out there who do not have vaginas, others who lack vagina and uterus, men who are born without a penis, or with a malformed penis, women born with an enlarged clitoris (better not be larger than a completely arbitrary medical length! or the doctor will cut it down to proper size, and something like 70% of these women never have an orgasm — better not be a boy with too small a penis, or the doctor will cut it off and make him a girl!)

    - there are medical variants, people who are not “fully functional” (to use the Star Trek term) — is the woman who cannot become pregnant, for whatever reason, actually a woman-born-woman? If you listen to the way that many infertile or fertility-challenged women talk, you’d certainly think so!

    And this is just from the all-hailed, all-worshipped medical point of view on the continuum of biological sex. Of course, there are detractors in the medical community, but the most commonly quoted number these days is that 1 in 100 individuals is intersexed in a chromosomal, gonadal, or morphological manner. That’s 1%, folks. Even the more conservative definition of intersex — that it occurs in 3 in 1000 individuals — still makes the frequency pretty darn high. In that case, if you know someone with cerebral palsy (3 in 1000), odds are, you know someone who is chromosomally, gonadally, or morphologically intersexed. Odds are even better that you may know someone who does not fit the “medical ideal” of their biological sex — someone infertile, sexually dysfunctional, etc.

    And this is just biological.

    Many of us are queer. Every day, we may fight against the perception that we are going against “god’s” (or someone’s) plan by daring to love someone of the same biological sex (and therefore be unable to procreate!). Why do we do it? Because something deep inside our extremely complex Homo sapiens brains has told us that we love these people. We identify as queer (or lesbian or gay or whatever) because our brains tell us we are something different than society says we are.

    Transfolk are just the same. And if biological/medically intersexed individuals are common enough that everyone probably knows at least one, and probably many, then why do folks have any sort of attitude that being trans is unusual and rare? I couldn’t imagine taking the moral high ground and trying to *define someone else’s gender identity for them* any more than I could imagine examining someone with ambiguous genitalia and making a wild-ass guess as to that person’s biological sex.

    The oppression angles may be different, but hey, there’s oppression! The oppression I experience as a lesbian is different from the oppression my friend experiences as a straight Jewish woman. But guess what? It’s oppression! Isn’t feminism all *about* ending oppression?

  245. astrid jane says:

    Ugh…am i the only dyke on earth who would rather hack off both her feet at the ankles than go to MWMF? Folksinging, vegan chili, open-mike poetry, S&M orgies next to the firepit, Goddess anything, stained glass window hangings in the shape of vulvas….it gives me hives. all of it.

    I know, I’m a terrible dyke (even more so ’cause i’m bi, maybe I was born without the key DiFranco gene sequence) but when it comes to vacations I really do prefer clean sheets and restaurant reservations.

    Trannies, however, are welcome to share my table with me, but only as long as they’re willing to go in halfsies on a few orders of appetizers…..

  246. riotllama says:

    I would like to take this moment to say that I am so hotted out by the smart, articulate and polite poeple on this post!
    Jude and tufflittlebuttercup are a pleasure to read.

  247. Tera says:

    I can not believe how quickly the characters are growing up!!

  248. j.b.t. says:

    Hi All,

    This is the only internet discussion I’ve ever followed, and I haven’t ever looked at the MWMF’s discussions, but I have been to the festival – here’s an idea (don’t know if it’s already been suggested and dismissed): why not let trans women in to the festival and give them and WBW each their own tents a la the women of color tent? That way WBW can have their own space for whatever and the trans women can enjoy the rest of the festival. And the trans women can have their own space for whatever also. Seems reasonable to me.

    And thank you, Alison, for everything.

  249. cicely says:

    Kelseigh Says:

    You remind me of something a Wise Woman told me once, cicely.

    Just because someone has wisdom, doesn’t mean they’re always right.

    This is true.

    Well, I’ve had more than enough to say. This issue has been very much on my mind over the last almost two years so I hope to be excused. And I want to thank everyone for the overall civil, friendly and generous tone of this conversation – it’s easily been the best anonymous and public discussion on the subject that I’ve ever participated in.

  250. Esther says:

    I am so happy you picked up these story lines again! Absolutely amazing. The strip still keeps me laughing and entertained!

  251. fjm says:

    The entire “womyn born” thing is just bad biology. There are plenty of people who look like women but don’t have female chromosomes and they aren’t all trans. Get over it. I like to spend time with kind, caring people. The womyn who set this policy don’t fit that category.

    But what really prompted this post was Duncan writing that Cynthia is ” trying to use Ashley to satisfy her own base sexual urges while pretending to be above them.”

    Good god. You mean Cynthia is a “tease”. She’s “egging Ashley on” and then “turning frigid”.

    Cynthia has a perfect right to decide what sexual interaction she is comfortable with, just as she would with a man. We don’t discuss often enough the way in which the absence of intercourse as a marker can be used in lesbian relationships to put an awful lot of pressure on someone.

    It’s happened to me twice: once when I needed a lot of physical comfort because I was heading into the depressive part of my cycle and was quite literarily banging my head against a wall, and once with someone I had thought I’d split up with who coerced me into sex when I was very drunk. The second, if it had been a man, I would probably have received lots of support over. Instead I was told that it was my fault. (I hasten to add I’m not the slightest bit traumatised, I was a lot more angry about what happened next.)

    I’d also point out that the potential game plan has changed for Cynthias. Twenty years ago she’d have had to decide whether to have sex despite the lack of a marriage certificate, to decide this wasn’t sex and give herself a nervous breakdown with the conflict, or stay celibate for the rest of her life. Today? Well, maybe Cynthia is holding out for marriage. Maybe it’s Ashley who is trying to satisfy her base lusts, while avoiding the committment of a civil ceremony and a Church blessing.

    But either way, to accuse Cynthia of using very deeply held beliefs to tease Ashley is frankly sexist.

  252. Lisa Evans says:

    Good Load!

    It worked perfectly. Thanks for the improved format and always great Bande Desinée!

  253. riotllama says:

    It’s always really pissed me off how ashley claims to be this enlightened anarhca femminist and yet doesn’t seem to understand the basic issues around consent. The fact that she doesn’t let up when cynthia tells her “no” makes me want to tell cynthia to run away.
    Asking is hot and no means no. Alison, send your charecter to a workshop on boundaries before she gets called out as an assaulter ;)

  254. DeLand DeLakes says:

    Oh please, not wanting to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with you is hardly being an “assulter”. That’s just setting priorities. Particularly when the someone in question is a right-wing lunatic who is barely tollerable for the course of a comic strip, much less a lifetime (though as I’ve said before, Cynthia is by far the most challenging and therefore interesting character in the strip- I just hate her guts, that’s all.)

  255. Anonny Mouse says:

    >>>>>Wait a moment….isn’t Stella older than Raffi? I thought she was by about a year.

    At his birthday party when he was about two or so (on the gift of a xylophone : “Thanks, Lois, couldn’t you have found him something MORE annoying?” “Well, it was this or the talking Barney.”), Stella was still a being-held baby. He said “Bay-bee!” to her. I don’t think she could talk at all. So, uh, no, then. : )

    Talking about happy couples, I’d like to see Thea and Maxine make a comeback. Maxine got very little attention, when one would think there’d be ready-made conflict between her and Sydney. After all, it was Sydney who broke Thea’s heart before Maxine won it, right? Long before she met Sydney, Maxine would’ve (I’d think) hated her for how she hurt Thea, and then suddenly, there she was with Thea’s co-worker.

    I wanted to make a comment on Ashley and Cynthia, but I couldn’t figure out how to articulate it.

  256. Anonymous says:

    as a trans youth, i just want to say that this episode is awesome!

  257. riotllama says:

    no, i meant ashley’s continuous pressure on her girlfriend who was saying she didn’t want to have sex. not them breaking up. read what i wrote.

    If ashley doesn’t learn to respect people’s boundaries (whether she considers the reasons behind them valid or not)she’s gonna get called out someday. and hopefully soon.
    pressure to do anything sexual when you don’t want to (for religious reasons or other)is extreemly uncool. Even if i normally hate the charecter of cynthia, i totally feel for her for the weird sexual pressure Ashley was giving her.

  258. Anne says:

    I have avoided Michigan for 5 years because of the trans issue, but went back this year to support a womyn friend who wanted to go. Both times I have gone, I’ve seen an incredible variety in the feminine gender. I don’t know how one says, “This far and no farther.”

    A comment at festival this year linked the Michigyn pilgramage to the womyn-only pilgrimages made in other cultures… the Mayans to the Isla de Mujeres, for example. Thinking about those cultures, it is likely some of those journeys included some gender-varient people, and some of those didn’t.

    Women are traditionally seen as the more inclusive gender. This may be a reaction to our experience of exclusion, or it may be genetic. So I think there is a betrayal in the policy. Women’s space is also commonly and frequently invaded… cameras in the dressing rooms, tampon ads in prime-time TV, medical assumptions about what women think or feel without asking them… so there’s a frustration in having one more boundary crossed.

    Someone mentioned the struggle of transwomen to be seen as women, and how much harder that is. Two of the transwomen I know served in the special forces, and the dedicated female soldiers I know served with honor in support facilities like nursing and chaplincy in spite of wanting to be special forces.

    Another aspect to the issue is what about gender assigned folks born intersex. What happens in the policy when those people recognize what’s happened to them?

    I have a lovely friend who is attempting to transition from Female to Male. He has fond memories of MWMF. This summer he was turned down for surgery. Slowly he is coming to terms with the reality that his body will never match his gender identity. What does the policy say in that regard?

    I am sad that a festival I’ve enjoyed has become the target of protest. I know transwomen who’ve gone to Dinah Shore, and since I don’t relate to that culture, I’m fine with that. But I know that when making this kind of transition, a pilgramage can be helpful, and one should be able to make their own pilgramage.

    When I heard the premature news the policy had changed, I thought back on the variation I saw and realized I really wouldn’t know if I’d seen transwomen. And if my experience of MWMF doesn’t change because of their presence, I’m fine with them being there. My anxiety about their presence comes from my beliefs about how things could change… but maybe they wouldn’t. Maybe they’d just blend in. I know transwomen who would blend in fine.

    I also know transwomen I wouldn’t want to camp with. But I know far more women I wouldn’t want to camp with. I know people that if they asked me about going to Michigan with them, I would encourage them to camp in a different part of the land than I do… but I wouldn’t keep them from coming.

    No answers here. I just wanted to write a post that would demonstrate grappling with a very real middle ground instead of ignoring it for the sake of supporting a position.

  259. fjm says:

    Thank you Anne. That pretty much sums up much of how I feel and it was beautifully expressed.

  260. shadocat says:

    To Astrid Jane’

    Girl, I am in total agreement with you-my idea of “roughing it” is a motel with basic cable.Also, I’ve often said the only man I could ever love would be Willis Carrier…

  261. Jennifer says:

    I kinda wish you’d leave the strip as-is, trans policy blooper and all. It pays a weird homage to the political energy surrounding MWMF and Camp Trans right now.

  262. PentacleGoddess says:

    The various bits of language used by supporters of the wbw policy are, I think, much more of what pisses off transwomen like myself than the actual support for the policy.

    When you say “safe space” in the context of this discussion, the implication is that you need “safe space” from US. As though our only real goal in potentially ostracizing ourselves from friends and family and more often than not facing a good deal of outright disgust from society at large is so we can go to a week-long music festival in Michigan and leer at all the purty women.

    To say that you just want a ‘safe’ space for one week and are perfectly comfortable with your trans sisters any other time ignores the fact that the idea of wbw is NOT limited to MWMF. It also implies that somehow, for one week out of the year, we either become disgusting or unsafe to be around. That our ability to contribute to, participate in, and learn from feminism mystically collapses one week out of the year.

    WBW policy leaking, morphing, (and occasionally genning) elsewhere:

    http://www.ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=523
    http://www.pfc.org.uk/node/942
    http://www.egale.ca/index.asp?lang=E&menu=1&item=1192

    and so on.

    Saying that the experiences of transwomen and women are always so radically different that a wbw space is warranted by that alone is, I’m sorry, patently ridiculous. It assumes not only that young children are capable of and /or care about male privelege, that all young men and women enjoy / suffer under the exact same amounts of it, or that women have never ever taken advantage of male privelege, but it also assumes that transwomen WANT, ENJOY, OR HAVE EVER BEEN CAPABLE OF ‘enjoying’ the priveleges of being male.

    The main assumption in this argument seems to be that we were perfectly happy living as guys and taking advantage of all the wonderful things that definition offered before one day we up and decided to go under the knife.

    And, one final note. For those insisting that the policy has always been in place: I cannot speak from experience, since I was not even born until 1977, but the sources I’ve seen indicate that the WBW policy was not articulated in any vague form until 1978, two years after the start of the festival; and not really made concrete until Nancy Burkholder was shown the proverbial door in ’91. Lisa Vogel has gone ON RECORD as saying that she will end the festival before openly admitting transwomen. This, at the very least, renders the idea that it’s *really* not about defining who is and is not a woman suspect at best.

  263. Duncan says:

    fjm writes, “Good god. You mean Cynthia is a ‘tease’. She’s ‘egging Ashley on’ and then ‘turning frigid’.”

    Well, no, I don’t mean that at all. In the first place, it’s not clear to me (from the strip, that is) that she and Ashley are even still dating. Cynthia *could* have staged her little tantrum in class because Ashley was still nagging her to put out, but then she might have done it because Ashley had stopped trying. We haven’t seen enough about their relationship (a very generous word to apply to their interaction, I’d say) to talk about Ashley’s “continuous pressure on her girlfriend who was saying she didn’t want to have sex.” (Not true: Cynthia *does* want to have sex but only if Jesus is in bed with them.) As for riotlama’s “assaulter”…!

    It’s true that people should respect other people’s boundaries. Cynthia should respect Ashley’s, however, and it’s clear she doesn’t.

    The scenario of people who get married so they can have licit sex is all too familiar from the good old days in which I grew up. If Ashley came from the same Christian-fascist background as Cynthia, I’d give them my blessing, knowing that conservative evangelicals are significantly more likely to divorce than we heathen. (I enjoy asking glb-Christians who are big on marriage on moral grounds if they’re willing to renounce gay divorce, since Jesus was very clear that divorce is a no-no.) And as a heathen (I don’t even worship in the church of Therapy), I don’t assume that “commitment” is a morally superior context for sex.

    But then I, like riotlama and fjm, am just filling out a barely sketched-in situation based on my own assumptions and values. Still, I do want to stress that it’s not clear that Ashley *is* still pursuing Cynthia. What is clear is that it’s the other way around. But I agree with Deland that Cynthia “a right-wing lunatic who is barely tollerable for the course of a comic strip, much less a lifetime.” The young, even in comic strips, must make their own mistakes, of course.

  264. Only Womyn born Womyn bleed says:

    This is truly amazing. Womyn born Womyn are beside themselves to deal with this “classic male pattern of behavior” in transgenders who have opted for a feminine identity. The way they go about alone, should make anyone with the least bit of awareness of the womyn identity question just how “trans” they are. To me, as a MAN, they are acting like and making demands like unrepentent men.

    This IS important.

    GETTING AWAY FROM this “very stereotypical” MALE behavior is one of the many reasons I’d assume that the organizers created this festival.

    From all that I have read, they want to create a space for womyn who have lived all their lives as womyn can share with each other a little bit of their lives in that unique way due to having been born with female genitilia.

    No matter how people want to PRETEND that this is a MINOR aspect of womynhood, IT IS NOT.

    Our Patriarchical society forces, demands, coerses womyn to sacrfice, humiliate themselves, and serve the male, even if a womyn has NO interest in the opposite sex, her life is inevitibly bound to the goals set for a womyn by the patriarchs not only on the societal level but often very personal level as well.

    Being born a womyn means your life is VERY DIFFERENT from those who opt to alter their physiological form to conform with their mental self – transgenders.

    Transgenders who are originally male do NOT grow up LIVING AND DEALING WITH with the key EXPERIENCES of being a womyn.

    While this does NOT make them any less equal, IT DOES MAKE their experiences dramatically different than that of a womyn born womyn in the very critical early stages of life during childhood and early adulthood.

    I find it particularly gaulling that transwomen seem to think that the women’s period is utterly UNimportant to the womyn’s identity. In society this is a watershed event for a womyn and this critical period and how its handled has a dramatic profound and lifelong effect on a womyn’s psyche.

    That alone should make it a bit more clear why womyn born womyn want a space for themselves. It is NOT about keeping transwomin out, but finding people who shared their own very personal experiences in life, experiences that ONLY a womyn born womyn could have experienced.

    Of course the period is just one of the many very complex, multifasceted aspects of growing up as a womyn born womyn that set them apart dramatically and clearly from transwomin.

    To try to transform the mere recognition of this simple fact and condemn it as transphobia is atrocious.

    To slam and insult the people who hold a festival that seeks to bring together womyn born womyn to relate to each other in a way that ONLY womyn born womyn can share with other womyn born womyn, because the requirement is that you be born femail is a corruption and inherently an insult to the values of equality. The owellian language tactics of those who demand the festival change its policies drives home this point.

    It’s not a question of right or wrong, or good or bad. The festival seeks to bring together individuals who due to their biology share something that only others like them in that very fundamental way can share.

    YES, transwomen are women, but no matter how authentic they may be, they DID NOT grow up that way. Their experiences are dramatically different.

    The bigotry and suffering they experienced was NOT experienced in a womyn’s body, and thus their experiences are markedly different, because our society treats womyn dramatically different solely baed on their body.

    The reasons for the festival’s attendence policy is legitimate, and I say this as a man. Who has absolutely NO interest in attending, but even as a man, I can understand why people who share this kind of commonality would want to have a “safe space” to share all that they are with others most like themselves, and share in a way that is a product of that.

    Of course if some transwomyn respond they’ll point out the various medical exceptions to the rule, in the typical tactic of trying to discredit the points by diverting the discussion. That doesn’t work with me, ….. EXCEPTIONS DO NOT DEFINE THE RULE. They are irrelavent to the goals of the festival which are good and healthy.

    Not only do they not define it, they do not automatically define anything that does not include them as bigoted and hateful.

    In order to celebrate diversity we have to accept that people are different, and in that diversity, those who have far more in common with certain members of our diverse community will often want to and need to find a safe space to just share with others most like themselves, and that to me is what the womyn’s music festival is.

    Accepting diversity means realizing such gatherings are NOT a threat, are NOT an attempt to define those who don’t qualify as inferior or not real.

    It’s outrageous and should be unacceptable that in a world full of horrid, deadly racism and bigotry, that womyn born womyn the largest group in the world that has suffered the most and is still suffering the most from bigotry and oppression must spend a second defending themselves against charges of bigotry.

    The best course of action probably would be to STOP apologizing and questioning yourself. You have a right and are in the right to come together on your own terms.

    It has absolutely nothing to do with transwomyn issues, and trying to define the policy within the contextof transexuality is an extreme corruption of a host of beliefs about the meaning of equality.

  265. liza from pine street art works says:

    If I may direct your attention back to Alison for a moment, I’d like to point out that Alison and Phranc met for the first time at the Michigan Women’s Music Festival in the eighties. I had the pleasure of introducing them. Now our lives intersect once more at my gallery, pine street art works, where Alison and Phranc are having a fabulous, amazing, wonderful art show. Phranc is showing her paper clothing and accessories under her label Phranc of California, and Alison is showing very large scale drawings as well as framed orginals from both DTWOF and Fun Home. I encourage you all to visit the pine street art works website to see this work online if you cannot make a visit to Burlington, Vermont in person. This is a great opportunity to view an aspect of Alison’s work that I guarantee you have never seen before because it’s completely new. And all work is available for sale through the website.

    Cheers. Liza
    http://www.pinestreetartworks.com

  266. Aunt Soozie says:

    Liza,
    That was just about the smoothest segue I have ever seen…you have a gift with subtlety. (hey, artists gotta eat right?)

    I’m wondering…when you introduced Alison and Phranc…at the festival…was there a panty check? I’m not being lewd…it’s just for the sake of my research.

  267. DeLand DeLakes says:

    Amen, Duncan (catch the sarcasm there?)

    From what I remember, Ashley and Cynthia are not dating anymore (that whole thing with Ashley calling Cynthia a lunatic for pulling the shotgun wedding scenario on her, and then bolting for New Orelans kind of sealed it, I think.)I believe that right now they are simply involved in sniping at each other. Moreover, Ashley never “coerced” Cynthia to do anything, she simply laid it on the table that if Cynthia wanted to be in a relationship with her, it wasn’t going to float on “Plan A”. That’s not coercion, that’s setting boundaries, and negotiating boundaries is what all relationships, sexual or otherwise, are based on. Furthermore, if you look at the statistics of young unmarried people attempting to adhere to chastity pledges, there are an awful lot of “assulters” working there wily ways out there- it’s been statistically proven that teenage kids who take chastity pledges actually have sex sooner than their classmates who don’t. And don’t forget it takes two to break a chastity pledge!

    Anyway, I think it’s obvious that Ashley and Cynthia were grossly mismatched anyway. Now Cynthia can go on to find the Mary Cheney of her dreams.

  268. liza from pine street art works says:

    Soozie, I can’t imagine what kind of research you are doing that involves Alison or Phranc’s undergarments, but I can assure you I would never discuss them in public.

  269. DeLand DeLakes says:

    I just noticed I used the wrong form of there/their in the last post. Oy, how embarrasing…

  270. Femme says:

    Ok So I just had to finally comment on this subject after all this time.

    Only Womyn born Womyn bleed Said,
    “This is truly amazing. Womyn born Womyn are beside themselves to deal with this “classic male pattern of behavior” in transgenders who have opted for a feminine identity. The way they go about alone, should make anyone with the least bit of awareness of the womyn identity question just how “trans” they are. To me, as a MAN, they are acting like and making demands like unrepentent men.”

    First I’d like to say my understanding of the term transgender includes all who do not conform to societies idea of “normal” gender behaviour. That’s a hug list of people, which does include transexual people as well as homosexual people, plus the wide ranges of others.

    I’d also like to say how very typical of someone to tell another to shut up and stop reaching for their rights, by suggesting is they reach for their rights they are not actually worth those rights. In other words if you stand up for yourself you must be a guy because women don’t do that.
    What a load of crap. That’s the thinking of the 1950s man who thought women were their little trophies who would have their dinner ready and drink in hand when the man came home from work.

    I wonder, mister who ever you are, if you could explain to me just what a feminine identity is, because I suspect your idea and mine are completely different. For me, a femme, it has little to do with my being female but rather has to do with how I live my life as a female.

    Only Womyn born Womyn bleed Said,
    “I find it particularly gaulling that transwomen seem to think that the women’s period is utterly UNimportant to the womyn’s identity. In society this is a watershed event for a womyn and this critical period and how its handled has a dramatic profound and lifelong effect on a womyn’s psyche.”

    Where the hell did you get this information? How would you know that a transexual woman thinks a woman’s period is “Unimportant to the womyn’s identity…”?
    Never once on any board that has had this discussion going on have I read any woman, make such a suggestion so I’m at a loss why you would make such a comment like that one. If anything you, by your nic name, do that because you make the assumption all women designated as females at birth menstruate, when most informed people know there are reasons why this is not always the case.

    I have enjoyed reading the comments posted here because as someone else pointed out, they were respectful and thoughtful and even when I didn’t agree with a posters view I could respect then for their view because of how they created their posting, until your post that is.

    All women regardless of their history go through different experiences growing up, some more privileged then others, some with more abuse then another. The one thing I never see people thinking about in this discussion, when they fight about who had it worse off when they were born, is how unique we all are and just how rich we all are when we share in that uniqueness as a community to make it stronger.

    I’ve never been to Mich Fest, I once thought I wanted to go but a few years back when I learned of this “policy” the idea turned me off. I’d love to bring my daughters, most likely just one of my daughters as the other one would never handle being anywhere outside and around so many women for more then about ten mins, but why would I want her learning about segregation or separation? They go through enough of that in school when someone singles them out because they aren’t white, or decides because I’m lesbian they must be too. I have many different friends, some transexual some not transexual, and I love them all equally, I trust them equally and would share my tent, mattress or bed with any of them equally.

    MWMF’s “policy” is something I can not support and so when I disagree with something I use the only way I have, to fight against it. I don’t pay money,

    If more people who disagreed did the same they would have two choices. Go under or change.

  271. Revcat says:

    Did anyone else see the article in the Sunday New York Times magazine about the issue of surgery for intersex newborns? Interesting article, and definitely interesting to read it in the midst of this ongoing discussion. The article focused on one person who has campaigned tirelessly against performing surgery, especially since it is usually done to make the parents comfortable, and naturally cannot be done with the consent of the infant, or with an awareness of how that baby will perceive her/himself later on.

    p.s. to get back to DTWOF – I have all of the books and have read them all too many times to count. It is really fun to have this up-to-the-minute and interactive blog with Alison!!

  272. Kelseigh says:

    Oh, Femme, in case you missed it, “Only Womyn Born Womyn Bleed” is an unsubtle reference to Alice Cooper’s song, “Only Women Bleed”. Which isn’t so much about menstruation but domestic violence, something trans women suffer the same as any other women.

    That said, it’s grimly funny to watch a self-identified male lecturing us on female identity…

  273. Kelseigh says:

    I wish I could afford the books, I’d get them in a second. As it is, I’ve always been hesitant to seriously get into DTWOF because I’d be jumping into the middle of things, so I’ve just comforted myself by following it in my local queer newspaper (Capital Xtra in Ottawa, Canada, in case Alison’s curious about her readership).

    Love to catch up on all the early stuff though, before the relationships developed so much.

  274. Only Womyn born Womyn bleed says:

    Femme said:
    First I’d like to say my understanding of the term transgender includes all who do not conform to societies idea of “normal” gender behaviour. That’s a hug list of people, which does include transexual people as well as homosexual people, plus the wide ranges of others.

    ……….and your point is? There is none. The womyn’s festival has NO POLICY excluding anyone who is not “normal.” That’s bizarre. The music festival accepts all womyn born womyn. There is NO exclusion based on the fact that a particular womyn born womyn also fits under a transperson catagory of which there are many. The ONLY ones this “request” specifically addresses are male to female transpeople.

    Femme says: I’d also like to say how very typical of someone to tell another to shut up and stop reaching for their rights,

    ………I did NOT tell anyone to shut up. You really should read instead of skim other people’s comments before you reply. I said womyn born womyn have NOTHING TO APOLOGIZE FOR, and should stop trying to excuse their decision. Anyone who disagrees can keep on speaking out, but they do NOT have the right to demand that womyn born womyn reply to their nonsense positions. Also NO rights transpeople rights are being violated!!!! If any group’s rights are being violated its the rights of womyn born womyn. WE do NOT HAVE the right to go to a music festival. In fact the reality is the right to associate, a constitutionally guaranteed right, also stipulates that self-defined groups have a right to determine who is and who isn’t a member and who can or not attend based on that determination.

    ……….The womyn’s festival is NOT depriving anyone of any rights by asking them not to go. Thi s kind of slander is a purposeful, hurtful attack on innocent womyn.

    femme says: by suggesting is they reach for their rights they are not actually worth those rights.

    …….NO WOMYN, NO ONE has said that. Why do you insist on responding to comments that no one has said or believes?

    What a load of crap. That’s the thinking of the 1950s man who thought women were their little trophies who would have their dinner ready and drink in hand when the man came home from work.

    ……..another non-sequiter. Who has said anything that indicates they feel that way? Who are you responding to? What are you responding to? I fail to see how womym born womyn wanting to have a music festival to celebrate their uniqueness has anything to do with this stereotype.

    femme said: I wonder, mister who ever you are, if you could explain to me just what a feminine identity is, because I suspect your idea and mine are completely different. For me, a femme, it has little to do with my being female but rather has to do with how I live my life as a female.

    ……MY opinion on “feminine identity” is utterly and totally irrelavent. That’s the responsibility of womyn born womyn if they decide to address it. NOTHING I’VE SAID pretends or infers I think I have a right to speak on that. I am responding ONLY to the unfair and baseless attacks on womyn born womyn for wanting to have a festival for themselves. Attacks, they are experiencing solely because they feel dare to believe being womyn born womyn makes them unique enough to meet once a year with other womyn who share their experience from BIRTH and all the ramifications of growing up clearly and undenyiably a womyn. To call womyn born womyn bigots for simply wanting to share a couple of days with other people who are “most” like themselves in a year is obscene, and really countering such a belief is a waste of time, and validates the belief. It’s simply ignorant and stupid, and should be ignored.

    Femme says: Where the hell did you get this information? How would you know that a transexual woman thinks a woman’s period is “Unimportant to the womyn’s identity…”?

    ………….Y’know, you are right. This view comes from living as a gay man my entire life, and realizing one day that in all the endless encounters and dealings with transwomen, I have never once heard it mentioned how they wish they could have a period. I’ve never once heard any transwoman say “oh if only I could menstruate.” To a one, female meant the clothes, the behavior, the desires and the sexual role (straight and lesbian) but the nitty gritty of a woman’s physical form beyond that dealing with sex was ignored. If you have encountered this sentiment expressed among transwomyn I believe you, but your experience I’d say is unique. One thing is certain, there doesn’t seem to be now or ever any effort made to make it possible for a transperson to have a period. Of course, perhaps there is some super-secret widespread effort to make this possible, but I doubt it. And while anecdotal evidence is rarely reliable, considering how much focus is brought on the trans community for all reasons in the gay/lesbian press, the stark and total abscense of any comment regarding a woman’s period on the part of transpeople does make me think they don’t consider it an essential or defining element of being a womyn.

    femme said: Never once on any board that has had this discussion going on have I read any woman, make such a suggestion so I’m at a loss why you would make such a comment like that one. If anything you, by your nic name, do that because you make the assumption all women designated as females at birth menstruate, when most informed people know there are reasons why this is not always the case.

    ………..you should have READ what I wrote, instead of skimming. I am completely aware that there are millions of women who do not and cannot menstruate, but you did not understand this, because you are thinking in the black and white manner of a man. You don’t get it’s NOT literally about menstruation, but the genetic pre-disposition to do so, and besides that. I held it up as ONE SINGLE example of probably a couple of dozen that I could think of that set womyn born womyn apart from other genders. Menstruation is just the most dramatic, that’s all.

    ……..oh in regard to my “nickname” that was a mistake on my part. I thought that space was for the “title of the post” LOL My bad. I was wondering how people gave themselves names on their post. I just misunderstood the format. I do NOT go by “only womyn bleed” LOL My name is Jonny.

    I have enjoyed reading the comments posted here because as someone else pointed out, they were respectful and thoughtful and even when I didn’t agree with a posters view I could respect then for their view because of how they created their posting, until your post that is.

    ……..So because I think womyn born womyn have a right to create their own safe space defined by themselves to share amongst themselves I am NOT respectful. AGain read instead of skim. I clearly said, that transpeople are just as equal as anyone else. HOWEVER, attending a music festival has absolutely NOTHING TO DO with civil rights. Attending a music festival is a priviladge, NOT a right, and it is an abuse of civil rights dogma and the cause to twist it so rediculously in order to call it a violation of human rights , especially since there IS NO policy. All there is is a polite, but firm request for people to police themselves.

    femme said: All women regardless of their history go through different experiences growing up, some more privileged then others, some with more abuse then another. The one thing I never see people thinking about in this discussion, when they fight about who had it worse off when they were born, is how unique we all are and just how rich we all are when we share in that uniqueness as a community to make it stronger.

    ………Sorry, you trivialize and marginalize the womyn experience. That is absolutely wrong. You do so in order to advance what you think are the trampled upon rights of transpeople, a very small group relative to womyn worldwide. In doing so, you are the one who seeks to violate the principals of equality.

    …………..It’s one thing to demand equal rights for all. It’s quite another to demand the majority group on this planet subordinate itself in order to validate a very small group’s identity. That is so extremely male it’s not even funny (and believe me as a gay man I have had extensive, unending experience with how men think.)LOL

    femme said: They go through enough of that in school when someone singles them out because they aren’t white, or decides because I’m lesbian they must be too. I have many different friends, some transexual some not transexual, and I love them all equally, I trust them equally and would share my tent, mattress or bed with any of them equally.

    ………Again, asking transpeople to respect the desires of womyn born womyn’s desire to have a festival they can call their own DOES NOT do this. This is absurd.

    ……….For me this is all about the right of womyn born womyn to spend a few days together with other people who they in concensus have decided they want to spend time with.

    ………NO ONE has a right to demand people like them, be friends with them, or socialize with them, and the efforts of transpeople in regards to the womyn’s festival are far more about that, than anything related to civil rights. That’s why it’s so wrong for them to slam and denigrate womyn born womyn by labeling them anti-trans or bigoted.

  275. dandypants says:

    Femme,
    FYI:
    yellowarmbands.livejournal.com

    There exists organized Festies and Workers who supported out transwomen who were sold tickets and participated at Fest this year.

    Camp Trans has not supported a boycott since 2005. The performer boycott is also over.

    Peace,
    dandy

  276. annoyed lawyer says:

    Okay, “Only Womyn Born Womyn Bleed”‘s [OWBWB's] comments have finally driven me out of my lurkdom to post. Many thoughtful and articulate people have posted on why they believe the festival policy to exclude transwomen is wrong. Tempting as it is to try to add to that discussion, I won’t. I do have to speak, however, to correct OWBWB’s confused commentary on freedom of association and civil rights. Yes, it’s true that the United States Constitution is usually interpreted to include a guarantee of freedom to associate. But virtually no constitutionally guaranteed right is absolute. Just as freedom of the press is regulated by statutes (forbidding the sale of pornography that uses minors, for example), and freedom to bear arms is regulated (by gun control laws of various stripes), so can freedom of association be regulated and limited by statute. And freedom of association, when it comes to excluding some group of “others” with whom the associating persons don’t wish to associate, is routinely limited by civil rights laws that seek to widen access to places of public accommodation. It was freedom of association that was used to justify race based segregation in numerous contexts, and civil rights laws enacted under the power granted Congress by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, in turn, that have been deemed to trump those associational rights in numerous contexts. For example, motel owners can’t deny rooms to African Americans on the basis of their race (as they used to often do) because the motel owner’s freedom to associate is limited by civil rights laws guaranteeing freedom from racial discrimination by motel owners and operators. So OWBWB can’t define transwomen’s quest for inclusion at the festival out of the realm of civil rights struggles just by saying so: unfortunately for OWBWB, transwomen’s seeking access to the festival is a classic civil rights issue, and the very question, from a legal perspective, is whether the law the transwomen rely on is sufficient to abridge the festival organizers’ associational liberty in this way. (These issues often end up boiling down to the question whether the place to which the challenger seeks access is a place of “public accommodation” or whether it’s more like a private club.)

    Of course, OWBWB has missed the fundamental point — this isn’t really an argument about legally grounded rights, it’s an argument about moral rights. The transwomen (and those of us who support them), believe transwomen are as morally entitled to attend as any other women, and that the organizers are acting immorally (i.e. don’t have the political high ground anymore) by excluding transwomen.

  277. Ex-lurker says:

    I’ve been lurking for ages on this thread as well but just to pick up on something OWBWB said: “Y’know, you are right. This view comes from living as a gay man my entire life, and realizing one day that in all the endless encounters and dealings with transwomen, I have never once heard it mentioned how they wish they could have a period. I’ve never once heard any transwoman say “oh if only I could menstruate.” To a one, female meant the clothes, the behavior, the desires and the sexual role (straight and lesbian) but the nitty gritty of a woman’s physical form beyond that dealing with sex was ignored. If you have encountered this sentiment expressed among transwomyn I believe you, but your experience I’d say is unique.”

    I had a relationship with a post-op MTF and she told me how she wished she could menstruate. She would sometimes buy pads and wear them, and I think there was always a sadness that despite the surgery and hormones, she could never have the “complete” experience of being a woman – ie having a menstrual cycle.

    And for the record, I’m a WBW lesbian from the UK, who firmly believes that transwomen should be accepted as women. My ex struggled with her feelings for years before finally attempting suicide, after which she started transitioning. She lost her marriage, access to her children, the home she lived in and many friends. The surgery left her unable to orgasm, the hormones left her with little to no libido and given her DVT.

    But regardless of how transwomen feel as they’re growing up, and everything that they sacrifice in order to bring their bodies into line with their idenity, it appears that to some people, their having started life in a male body and experienced male privilege is unforgivable. I can’t say I’m proud to be part of a “community” that harbours people who think that way.

  278. Dana Tak says:

    Its funny. I’ve been through it all, “four procedures, mones, therapy” and I never called myself trans anything, I’d always thought the whole point of transtion was to be the woman you know you are despite it all, and to move on with life.

    I was told by some that I was “bending to societal norms” “allowing myself to be mutilated” or my personal fave “refusing to accept my homosexuality”. Which was comic as as a mtf who was attracted to women, I somehow assumed I was embracing it.

    As to stereotypes. I think after I transtioned some of my shirts got brighter, and I occasionally painted my toenails that was about it” The joke is, I had srs for me, but in the end two years later I had to get face surgery, not for hetrosexist norms, but for the values of the same “WBW” exclusionists.

    I considered myself a Feminist, read “and generally liked” the second wavers and felt that appearance based discrimination, “lookism” was an evil I wanted no part of, then I entered “Lesbian spaces”….

    Well, after two years of not being able to go to a club and just sit in a corner with my drink in peace or even go to the bathroom without a mini protest, once which included some self appointed defender of the right leading everyone out of the restroom and barring the door so no one might enter the toilet till I was through and inadvertently be exposed to a “fake vagina” Apparently they contain awsome cooties…..

    In the end I finally had to sell my house to pay ANOTHER doctor to take most of my face off and put it back on again, and not for normal society, or sexist ideals of approprite female apperance, but so the same self congraduatory assholes who pride themselves on their WBW purity would let me have enough dignity to simply sit in the bar and occasionally use the restroom.

    Now I can go to the bar, have a drink, and even ocassionally sing some karaoke, and I get a base level of respect, as long as I don’t talk much, and all they demanded of me was that I sell everything I own and have my face sawn apart and stuck back together with pins, and not for any of “The patriarchys” norms, or sexist beauty standards. but for the sake of the women who were so afraid that my dread “fake vagina” will dribble y chromasones on the toilet seat and give them guy germs…… Its grade school again, only it never ends.

    I sound bitter I supppose and afer all that, I admit I am a bit, and I started out a very peppy booster type. I try to keep quiet on this topic, but I know this game. In the case of someone like me, well, thats one thing, the debate is still open and will be doubtless till long after I’m dead. BUT.

    I know a woman in Florida, “WBW” who has a thyroid problem, massy and flat cheted, she was refused Festival acess, her crime? Being trans,”She wasn’t” her DL? no good, her BC? no, that was no good either she HAD to be a man, she didn’t “look right” she had constant painful battles with endometriosis, so her sex was not in doubt, but since she looked that way she was called trans, told she had “male vibes” “how do you prove vibe lack?” And shown the door, in that order. This pretty much shows what its really all about.

    That above story shows the real problem in a nutshell, its not my battle, I have no want, need or desire to attend. I don’t attend events with exclusionst, sexist or rascist stadards.

    I understand wanting womens spaces, I attend them when I can. And I don’t want to share womens spaces with the penis folk either, but when you start screening for genetic purity, the goodness is gone people.

    Once your validity has to be proven with a microscope, it ceases being sociology and starts becoming eugenics. :(

    They tried that in the thirties, your genetic material defing your humanity, it came to a bad end.

    Thats all I really have to say…………..

  279. Maggie Jochild says:

    hey, liza from pine street art works (one of your many incarnations in our community) — i want to second liza’s recommendation that you visit her website because i did a while ago to see alison’s work and was blown away by the whole thing. including, and especially, the art by your daughters, liza. (be sure to watch the video if you have the bandwidth.) while i’ve got the chance, i want to say that i own every issue of dyke (few as they were); the lesbian land collective i lived on in colorado subscribed to it and i wound up with the magazines, lucky me. i can remember when the lesbians and art issue came out, we talked about it for WEEKS, especially those of us who were raised poor/working class and had not considered the possibility of “women’s art” in a context free of men’s domination. (as judy said, the subject of lesbianism is very ordinary, it’s the question of male domination that makes everybody angry). your decades of contribution to lesbian culture have been marked and appreciated every step of the way by many of us, and i want you to know that just in case you hadn’t heard it recently. for so many of us, sisterhood still feels good.

  280. Kathy says:

    I was going to let this lie, but I do have one comment. Apparently Mr. Gay man wasn’t peeking through the window when I was weeping over Are You there God, It’s Me Margaret.

    Not having a normal puberty was one of the most painful parts of my entire life.

  281. Kelli says:

    I honestly would prefer to have the full experience: periods, cramps, potential for pregnancy. But all I have access to is a surgically-constructed facsimile built out of the parts of anatomy I always wished I didn’t have anyway. That’s either going to have to be good enough, or else transplant surgery is going to have to make an enormous leap. Reading “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret” was an almost painful experience for me, because it gave me insight into an experience I’ll never have. I’ve been wishing to be a girl since before I really even understood the differences in anatomy, though.

    I’ve been excluded from the supposedly male-oriented activities I was pressured into attempting to join because I was too effeminate. I’ve been excluded from the supposedly female-oriented activities that I actually wanted to join because I was a boy. I know what it means to be excluded from opportunities to join in male-dominated arenas. And I’ve experienced it from the other side, too.

    And I’ve experienced molestation (fortunately, not pattern abuse, just a couple of isolated incidents, thank goodness) at the hands of an abusive stepfather.

    When I’m tense and feeling defensive, I adopt the posturing and false bravado that was inculcated in me growing up. When I can relax and be myself, I’m content to sit back and not force my opinions on anyone, and in fact I usually have to be specifically asked before I will share my opinions. And then, yet, there’s still another level. When I’m not only relaxed, but actually comfortable and familiar with the people around me, I will join in the conversation on my own, and add my thoughts and contributions.

    It’s as though… when pressured, I adopted the defensive techniques I learned in order to remain safe as a child, and was in effect pretending to be a boy. When relaxed but still among relative strangers, I adopt the reticent behavior that’s closer to my own natural attitude of friendliness but unwillingness to share too much with people I don’t know — an attitude that seems to be considerably more common among women. And then, when I’m truly comfortable, I am able to freely express myself. But what defines that level of comfort is different for each person.

    At what point do my experiences and attitudes as a transwoman get any validation as having any similarity to those of ciswomen? I don’t know, but what’s the relevance when all I want to do is go listen to some music? Can’t there be a convention or a seminar at a university instead of a big event featuring popular musicians with wide cultural appeal?

    Ciswomen have more variation among themselves in terms of experience and attitudes and feelings than there is variation between the set of all ciswomen and the set of all transwomen. Transwomen have more variation among themselves than there is variation between the set of all transwomen and the set of all ciswomen.

  282. Aunt Soozie says:

    Kelli….
    can you define the term “ciswomen” for me?
    I think I know what you mean but I’m wondering about the word origin. Also, thanks for speaking up here.

    What did you mean by “can’t there be a convention or a seminar at a university instead of a big event featuring popular musicians with wide cultural appeal”?

    Did you mean if “ciswomen” want an exclusive gathering can’t it be something else, other than michigan? If that’s what you meant my thought is, Michigan is already established as what it is…and the people involved have asserted that they want it to remain as it is. I think I already clarified my opinion on supporting certain types of separatism. but, I understand the sentiment…and I’m sorry that you are excluded from something you want to be a part of.

    As I said in my post in the next blog entry…there are other alternatives and the musicians that appear at Michigan do appear at other festivals. Unfortunately all of the women’s music festivals have been met with the same fate as michigan in that attendance is dropping. I don’t know if that is a positive reflection? That young women are less in need of a music festival that specifically limits itself to women’s music? or goals of the feminist movement are being met and there is less need for that kind of specificity? or young women of today are just too complacent? haven’t faced the same oppression? will they be blindsided by discrimination like women in the late 60′s early 70′s were when they realized that they could fight along side their brothers for freedom or for peace as long as they made the coffee and knew when to shut up and look pretty?

  283. SimonE says:

    OK, delurking as well.

    I think the Michfest debate is less about Michfest than about transphobia. And I doubt that a lot of Transpeople would actually go there if the policy was revoked. Camp Trans is attended by about 200 persons, not all of whom would be excluded under the policy as is and of whom another bunch would not go, if they were allowed in. The thing is: Ever since the Trans-exclusion was made public, it has been defended by transphobic rhetoric. Let me restate that: Transphobic rhetoric. Now some have argued that it is not transphobic and instead of just saying they´re wrong I´m going to show how similar Vogels reasoning is to that of other groups.

    Let´s start with: “While this is widely pointed to by Camp Trans supporters as a “policy,” it was a situational response to the heated circumstances of 1999″

    Well, for starters the first incident under this policy occured in 1991, which was the reason Camp Trans was started in the first place. And of course it is a policy, a situational response would have happened in 99 and only have reoccured if heated circumstances were to return.

    That trans-exclusion was not something that came about in 99 is clear looking at the beginning of her press release:
    “Since 1976, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival has been created by and for womyn-born womyn, that is, womyn who were born as and have lived their entire life experience as womyn.”

    Now, it has been stated before in this thread WBW was not seen as a category that meant “any non-trans woman” until 91, when a transwoman outed herself and was removed from the festival grounds. Which surprised her and quite a lot of other people. Either the policy stretches back to 76, or it was created on the fly in 91. Who can tell?

    “As Festival organizers, we refuse to question anyone’s gender.”

    OK, so let us review this.
    a) If you´re trans, you are not welcome
    b) If you´re trans and show it, you´re out
    c) We won´t ask.

    Sounds like the don´t ask, don´t tell policy to me. Which is homophobic. But when Vogel sets up the same thing for transwomen it is suddenly neither a policy, nor transphobic?

    “In 1999, Camp Trans protesters caused extensive disruption of the Festival, in which a male from Camp Trans publicly displayed male genitals in a common shower area and widespread disrespect of women’s space was voiced.”

    Quick question: How many of the WBW-policy supporters read “a male from camp Trans” and think “pre-OP MtF”?

    Quick response (from eminism):
    Tony Baretton-Neto
    Female-to-male trans activist who founded TOPS (Transgender Officers Protect/Serve) in 1995. Tony entered the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival in 1999 and took shower inside, inadvertently exposing his penis, which was made from a skin graft from the forearm. This is considered to be the orgin of the myth that “men walked around the festival exposing themselves” (which has no concrete eye-witness reports beside Tony’s story itself). Some Camp Trans participants questioned his entering the festival since he is now a man, but he defended it because he has “paid the dues.” He says: “I have gone to jail and paid with the same body I had surgery on and, by God, I have paid with my blood and my soul and with all too many friends who’ve been lost because womyn didn’t have control over their bodies… I lived the fear and the tragedy and the pain, the ecstasy, the joy, and the beauty of it all and you can never take that away from me.”

    Now just the phrasing in Vogels text is enough to get her supporters assume an entirely different story. And I feel that this is no accident (7 years of debate where Tony was represented as a Pre-OP MtF and refutations of that factoid by trans-activists should be a solid reason to phrase this more carefully). BTW, this also shows OWBWB to be wrong in his assumption that the policy only affects MtFs.

    “We strongly assert there is nothing transphobic with choosing to spend one week with womyn who were born as, and have lived their lives as, womyn. It is a powerful, uncommon experience that womyn enjoy during this one week of living in the company of other womyn-born womyn.”

    I am sure there is nothing transphobic about that. Just like there´s nothing homophobic about the defense of marriage act, which protects the powerful experience of marriage that straight couples enjoy from wait… Let´s review… So I guess there is a part I´m missing here, which is: What would changing the policy do to diminish the “powerful, uncommon experience”?

    There is so much unspoken resentment in that statement that the final remarks (respect as a part of the greater queer community – note that the other parts of the greater queer comunity excluded from Michfest are gay men and bisexual men, notice a trend here?) come off to me as “some of my best friends are *insert minority group*, but…”

    Now I´ll finish this with a personal story, because this is how I fist encountered a WBW policy and possibly shows why I can´t just live with it. A lesbian organisation decided they wanted to be more trans-inclusive and set up a couple of pannel-discussions, film showings, workshops, etc. which were all trans-based. I was on one of the pannels and I felt this was a great opportunity to communicate what different experiences we go through and the panelists were pretty diverse as well. On my way home (late at night train ride) I was attacked and beaten up. Which is something I knew I was in risk of, but the panel discussion was worth it in my opinion. 3 days later there was a party to celebrate the new inclusiveness and again I went by train. I was bruised, but damn, this was important to me. When I got there, I saw some of the other panellists standing in the parking lot. Yes, the party was WBW only. Yes, they were celebrating our inclusion without us. And our emails asking if they could at least have told us before we got there to be turned down at the door, were never answered. When we sent them flyers announcing our own events they were sent back. But you have to give them credit for trying, right?

  284. cicely says:

    Dana Tak Says:

    Its funny. I’ve been through it all, “four procedures, mones, therapy” and I never called myself trans anything, I’d always thought the whole point of transtion was to be the woman you know you are despite it all, and to move on with life.

    I was told by some that I was “bending to societal norms” “allowing myself to be mutilated” or my personal
    fave “refusing to accept my homosexuality”. Which was comic as as a mtf who was attracted to women, I somehow assumed I was embracing it.

    As to stereotypes. I think after I transtioned some of my shirts got brighter, and I occasionally painted my toenails that was about it” The joke is, I had srs for me, but in the end two years later I had to get face surgery, not for hetrosexist norms, but for the values of the same “WBW” exclusionists.

    I considered myself a Feminist, read “and generally liked” the second wavers and felt that appearance based discrimination, “lookism” was an evil I wanted no part of, then I entered “Lesbian spaces”….

    Well, after two years of not being able to go to a club and just sit in a corner with my drink in peace or even go to the bathroom without a mini protest, once which included some self appointed defender of the right leading everyone out of the restroom and barring the door so no one might enter the toilet till I was through and inadvertently be exposed to a “fake vagina” Apparently they contain awsome cooties…..

    Thanks for your comment, Dana Tak. It says a lot.

    In case anyone reading thinks the kind of thing you’ve experienced in clubs is or was a rare ocurrence – some years ago in a smallish city in Australia, a WBW – self-appointed guardian of women’s space – with suport from others – demanded that a woman she suspected of being a transwoman go into the toilet with her at a nightclub on a lesbian night, and ‘prove’ that she was a woman, or she would be asked to leave. For the record, the woman complied.

    To my mind nothing excuses this kind of thing. Certainly not feminist politics. (not in my name.) I fail to grasp why any of us has the right to know intimate personal and medical details of another persons life – and particularly in any public setting – until and unless it is in the context of a private, one on one relationship. And even then it’s not for anyone else to determine the whys and wherefores of someone elses self-disclosure.
    For me, that’s another part of the problem of the festival’s (non) policy. It must be an invasion of privacy in itself for some women in some circumstances surrounding the attendance – or not – of the festival. And the same obviously goes for any other WBW space or event.

    I thought I’d said everything I wanted to say, but I was reminded of that night club incident and how angry it made me feel when I heard about it. I’d be ashamed to call myself part of a community that condoned that sort of thing.

  285. SimonE says:

    Ah, double post:
    @Aunt Soozie:
    Cis is a Latin word meaning “on the same side [of]” or “on this side [of]“, and is the opposite of trans. (so says Wikipedia)

  286. Femme says:

    (this is why I hate commenting on these things)

    OWBWB, don’t you even read what you write before you comment about someone’s response? And maybe it is you who needs to read all of what someone is saying, not putting your own ideas into what one is saying.

    That said I would go slow for you seeing that I understand men lack language skills.
    You said, ” and your point is? There is none.”
    Actually since you in your comments have been saying transgender women, I was pointing out the idiocy of doing so. I, as a lesbian, by the fact of the meaning of the term transgender, am also transgender. As a gay man you are also transgender.
    You also said, ” ………I did NOT tell anyone to shut up”
    Actually you did. By telling people that their asserting their rights is just like acting as a man you are in effect saying, if you continue being assertive you are a man and so the only way for me not to call you a man is to shut up and say nothing, don’t open your mouth.

    More from OWBWB,; “…….NO WOMYN, NO ONE has said that. Why do you insist on responding to comments that no one has said or believes? “

    Again see my answer above. By taking a whole thought and breaking it into two only means the answer is the same twice.

    More from OWBWB, “……..another non-sequiter. Who has said anything that indicates they feel that way”

    I made it clear in the beginning it was you I decided to respond to, not to anyone else. The only “they” would be you and your comments.

    More from OWBWB, “……MY opinion on “feminine identity” is utterly and totally irrelavent.”

    Umm again maybe you should read what it is that you write before responding, and then you might understand when someone comments. You said, “classic male pattern of behavior” in transgenders who have opted for a feminine identity.”, as such I am asking a very simple question of you since it is you who made this comment. Don’t make a comment then try to pass it off on the rest of us as if it’s our comment to explain.

    More from OWBWB, “………….Y’know, you are right. This view comes from living as a gay man my entire life, and realizing one day that in all the endless encounters and dealings with transwomen, I have never once heard it mentioned how they wish they could have a period.”

    Glad to hear you admit it. And as a man, gay or otherwise, just how much did you expect to hear women talk about when it comes to personal issues or concerns that they feel pain about?
    How I speak with a man, gay or other wise, is completely different to how my friends and I speak amongst each other about such issues.
    With you I’d talk about simple things, it sounds very much that you are confusing, as well, drag queens and women who are transexuals. You wouldn’t be the first gay man to do so and I suspect not the last.
    I remember my old g/f was in a training session for a support line for the queer community. After each raining workshop they would have a debriefing. So after the training on transexual issues was done and the group of trainees were together the question was posses, what did you learn how did you find the training? Up pipes up a gay man who says, I don’t know why we spent so much time on that; I know all that stuff already since they are in the clubs. Ya he thought, and clearly misses the boat on the training, that transexual and drag were one and the same. Sadly he wasn’t the only one. I remember my ex coming home that night rather upset by the ignorance.

    More from OWBWB, “………..you should have READ what I wrote, instead of skimming. I am completely aware that there are millions of women who do not and cannot menstruate”

    Again see above as my comment had to do with the above. I have never seen any woman on any board ever make such an ignorant comment such as yours dealing with periods and transexual women thinking negatively about them.

    More from OWBWB, “……..So because I think womyn born womyn have a right to create their own safe space defined by themselves to share amongst themselves I am NOT respectful.”

    No because you were so blatantly oppressive and arrogant in your comments, and whether you think I should be permitted to have a space without women who are transexual being there is not your concern, but it is mine. So I am not asking you to speak for me on this issue.
    Further, I never once called anyone a bigot, anti trans, least not as of yet on this list I haven’t. And I’m glad to see a lawyer speak to the issue of civil rights, because my opinion would be based on my personal belief, hers was on the legalities.
    And please don’t try to do what men have always done to me, “for me”, to tell others what is right for me or what I need/should have or what my experience is. How dare you tell me I’m trivializing and marginalizing my life experiences because of what I’m writing?
    Yes I could have spelled it out so much longer to cover all the differences, and to cover the similar aspects but I didn’t believe I needed to do so in order to make the point.
    I grew up facing a very black and white world, black in my home, white everywhere else. I learned long ago, then again I was the one telling people back then, that we are more alike then not. Back then the colour of my skin was considered so different; we were not people enough to deserve the same schooling, medical care etc. South Africa only came out of that same thing in the 80s where everything, class, was based first on colour. White non white, coloured and black.
    So yes I look at all women as equally able to share the same space as me, be it my tent, my bed, my home. I myself do not agree with a policy that spends such energy on segregating and focused on differences, I believe doing so weakens us. As such I speak by not attending, spending money at events like those.
    I have a friend who played at Michigan a few years ago and I was upset at her for doing so. She spoke about working from with in and at the time I agreed that maybe fighting from within was the way, but now I just think the way to go is not to go at all.
    I also have heard Tribe 8 has played there, which in itself is funny based on their policy, but I digress.

  287. Carpenter says:

    I have been keeping up with this thread since the new strip was uploaded, and wow! I just had to throw in my $.02 because of some of the comments that OWBWB posted.

    I have been working in and around the trans community for the last seven years and have been studying trans theory and feminist theory on trans for thirteen years. In my experience, I have met more transwomen who have stated desire/regret regarding menstruation then transwomen who make no mention.

    I have attended, participated, facilitated, and presented workshops at trans, trans youth, queer, queer academic and queer youth conferences in California. I have attended multiple transwomen presentations/panels where a majority of transwomen of all different ages/races/classes/religions have lamented not being able to menstruate.

    But that may seem all for naught, since OWBWB mentioned: “If you have encountered this sentiment expressed among transwomyn I believe you, but your experience I’d say is unique.” (See I have been reading, not skimming… gives me something to do during the downtime of workload in my office.)

    Plus, something else OWBWB said caught my attention: “One thing is certain, there doesn’t seem to be now or ever any effort made to make it possible for a transperson to have a period.” This is simply untrue. One of the first womyn to transition in the modern sense of the word was Lili Elbe who died one year after proto-SRS, due to complication from her final surgery: an implantation of ovaries, performed in 1931.

    Mind you this final operation had the primary intent to give her the ability to produce her own estrogen; it still held the possibility for menstruation. But if you consider who, until recently, had been the physicians of these surgeries, you may understand the reasoning behind NOT attempting to achieve successful implantation. These doctors had been all male. They had little less to consider but heterosexual, missionary sexual function as the sole goal for SRS. The Transsexual Empire indeed!

    However, there are now more than a handle full of female doctors that are specializing in trans-medicine. The most famed is Doctor Marci Bowers, previous head of Washington U’s OB/GYN department, student and heir to Doctor Biber (most prolific SRS doctor to date) and a transwoman her self.

    ***

    Anyways, I’ve been a long time fan of Alison Bechdel’s work and I wanna address another concern from last week. This was gonna make me want to write up a reply, but I keep forgetting to check my references: didn’t Lois and Mo (plus some others) attend MWMF back in the day? I would check in my DTWOF collection but I am at work and I keep forgetting when I’m home (so many other concerns take precedence instead of some discussion board comment not yet made.)

  288. piny says:

    I’ve been lurking for ages on this thread as well but just to pick up on something OWBWB said: “Y’know, you are right. This view comes from living as a gay man my entire life, and realizing one day that in all the endless encounters and dealings with transwomen, I have never once heard it mentioned how they wish they could have a period. I’ve never once heard any transwoman say “oh if only I could menstruate.” To a one, female meant the clothes, the behavior, the desires and the sexual role (straight and lesbian) but the nitty gritty of a woman’s physical form beyond that dealing with sex was ignored. If you have encountered this sentiment expressed among transwomyn I believe you, but your experience I’d say is unique.”

    Setting aside for the moment the likelihood that any transwoman would confide in OWBWB: Could this have something to do with the fact that it’s IMPOSSIBLE? Transwomen don’t complain all that frequently about their inability to get pregnant, probably because it’s simply not an option right now. Things like access to surgery and the tendency of total strangers to beat the shit out of you, OTOH, have available solutions. Or could it be that most people are not aware whether any given woman is menstruating or, indeed, can menstruate?

    That having been said, I don’t know too many ciswomen who are all, “Thank God I can menstruate! I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t get my period every month! I’d be so pissed!”

  289. Kelli says:

    Aunt Soozie:

    SimonE adequately defined the “cis-” prefix.

    The point I’m making with regard to the MWMF is simple: Is it about the music, or is it about making some obscure point about some completely unrelated issue? If it’s the latter, then perhaps it should not be called the Michigan Women’s Music Festival, and instead the Michigan Festival of Women Who Wish to Share Exclusive Space Free of the Influence of Those We Consider Too Masculine to Suit Us and Oh By the Way Some Music.

  290. piny says:

    And to rephrase: I didn’t mean “don’t complain all that frequently” in the context of, say, discussions with friends or discussions in trans-friendly space. I would have assumed that y’all talk about that stuff as frequently as transmen complain about medical shortcomings in ftm transition. I meant in terms of, say, press releases drawing attention to legislative discrimination or hate-related violence. Or Camp Trans, even.

  291. piny says:

    Sorry about the serial post, but it occurs to me that this is a fake argument anyway. If OWBWB were aware that transwomen do consider the inability to menstruate a loss, he’d complain about how they were fetishizing women’s bodies. And you can bet that if menstruation or some working approximation thereof were an option through SRS, he’d be the first to excoriate it as a bizarre, monstrous, mutilating perversion. Proof positive that transwomen were acting out their sick fantasies on women’s bodies.

    Can’t win for losing, remember?

  292. Aunt Soozie says:

    Kelli,
    It was never just about the music…it was about “women’s music” and an entire political movement…it was alot about the lesbian community as well.

  293. Kelseigh says:

    Piny nails it, and while I admire Femme’s intestinal fortitude, I have no intention of playing OWBWB’s happy fun little game. That sort of rhetorical “gotcha” is more suited to the MWMF boards than here.

    However, as a trans woman, I can say that personally that I have often felt pain at the thought of never being able to have children. This was particularly keen a few years ago when I re-watched Goddess Remembered (I’m Pagan, of course). There is a scene in it with a number of women discussing various things, and one describes women as “ancestresses of the future”. Well, I normally have a good handle on those things, but that hit me deeply. I will never be an ancestress. And that hurts.

    But do I go around blathering on and on about this to everyone I meet? Of course not. It’s a deep, abiding pain, and it lasts the rest of your life. Most of the time, you just soldier on, but it’s there in the background. It’s just…not something I talk about a lot.

    Certainly I wouldn’t confide in someone like OWBWB.

  294. Dana Tak says:

    I just find it mildly amusing that its mostly GAY men and women who are so wound up over this topic.

    Most straight people don’t care “assuming you don’t look weird or draglike” I never had the option of moving so I’ve gotten to see it. The conservative catholic Bush Repub neigbors across the street, they are fine with me, the mother of my oldest friend, my fundie sister in law, all cool and pretty accepting, most of the women I knew before in fact. And when I was still out in school. Almost all were welcoming. “The only group on campus that would not accept me as me was the campus LBGT. Fancy that. : /

    Their view was, you had the surgery, you are one of us, its very heartening. Its the radical GL who have the troubles, the ones who scream at Bi people for being fence sitters, and mumble that that there shouldn’t be a T at all.

    I’m guessing is that since a lot of them had their sexuality seriously questioned by themselves and others before they came out, they carry a great deal of deep discomfort about “sex roles” and gender, they found their freedom and self acceptance in their identities as Lesbians and Gays, and this just opens it all back up again. So all of thier self hating pre coming out personal confusion comes roaring back out looking for a target, and what a target, people who came to different concusions about sexuality, different enough to be discomforting but not different enough to be alien enough for indifference.

    You see it in the gay press off and on, gay men calling MtFs “self mutilated homophobes” and Dyke pundits calling FtMs “Butches who neeed to get in touch with their womanhood”.

    This sad one sided few of “acceptibly queer” is so narrow minded, so rank with stereotype, and so hideboud and determied to be the only “right way” that I have had an easier time explaining what I did to NEOCONS than to some queer activists. :( This is a sign of something seriously amiss in modern queer theory. Or maybe i should say modern queer theology, because people are acting more like religious zealots than anything else.

  295. piny says:

    ………..you should have READ what I wrote, instead of skimming. I am completely aware that there are millions of women who do not and cannot menstruate, but you did not understand this, because you are thinking in the black and white manner of a man. You don’t get it’s NOT literally about menstruation, but the genetic pre-disposition to do so, and besides that. I held it up as ONE SINGLE example of probably a couple of dozen that I could think of that set womyn born womyn apart from other genders. Menstruation is just the most dramatic, that’s all.

    Not that I have a cast-iron stomach either, but…this is gold. She’s thinking in the black and white mannier of a man? If it’s “not literally about menstruation”–which I suspect actually means, “Stop quoting the things I write as though they can be criticized!”–then don’t bring menstruation up as a defining criterion for “women’s experience.” Not all women do it, not all women centralize it. Transwomen might or might not eventually be able to do it. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suspect that no level of medical advances in transition will ever matter to you.

    I dunno about “most dramatic;” maybe it just seems that way to you since you’ve never actually menstruated? I remember it being pretty mundane in a lot of ways.

    Funny how these ultrafeminists never look at how these arguments–not never, not really, nohow–might affect transmen. But that would imply people like OWBWB are kinda…sexist, a teensy bit invested in brittle manhood theirownselves, and of course no one wants to do that.

    Sorry, you trivialize and marginalize the womyn experience. That is absolutely wrong. You do so in order to advance what you think are the trampled upon rights of transpeople, a very small group relative to womyn worldwide. In doing so, you are the one who seeks to violate the principals of equality.

    …………..It’s one thing to demand equal rights for all. It’s quite another to demand the majority group on this planet subordinate itself in order to validate a very small group’s identity. That is so extremely male it’s not even funny (and believe me as a gay man I have had extensive, unending experience with how men think.)LOL

    It’s kinda risible to hear a man castigating a woman for thinking like a man, but it’s high-fucking-larious to hear a cisgendered man telling a woman she doesn’t have the right to see the marginalization of transpeople as important relative to her own oppression. And since when did we accord people rights based on their numbers?

  296. Hannah says:

    Ok, I posted way back up there in the distance on this thread and then checked back to see what was going on with it some days later….292 posts down here! Allison, assuming that you manage to read this far down and haven’t fled screaming into the night, wow!
    If you ever wonder if your art affected the world around you, I would call this serious proof.
    All of us who are reading or lurking or reasoning or screaming here on this blog are interacting and involved in a dialog and as a community.
    This is a powerful thing!
    And all because of an artist!
    Cool!
    Hannah

  297. Em says:

    This thing about mensturation reminds me of how you hear some men deeply regret never having fought in a war, thinking that war ‘makes you a man’, while on the other hand there are many veterans who wouldnt wish it on anybody to have to fight in a war and wish they didn’t. I mean I’m not some expert on military history, I just think it’s interesting how certain painful experiences are looked at among those who’ve never/can not experience it. But it is understandable, as it’s not so much the actual pain itself but the camraderie that forms over the shared experience of pain (if that makes any sense.) At an old job, one of my co-workers expressed regret that he never had the “typical hellish high school experience” of suffering at the hands of bullies. As someone who was bullied and teased and can’t even see my old middle school without wanting to throw up, I just couldn’t believe that someone would WANT to go trought that! In his view, he wanted to triumph over adversity, to really prove himself and be stronger for it. Maybe some people are differently affected by it and do end up triumphing, but I all I have to show for years of torment is social awkwardness and anxiety. But I do hear over and over that people are made stronger for suffering, and it’s hard to dismiss completely, yet I wouldn’t wish my experiences on anyone.

    Please note that the above tangent is not to trivialize the regret some transwomen have about not being able to mensturate/bear children, it’s just that that issue ties into larger issues that I’ve been thinking alot about the past year. As to mensturation being some sort of true hallmark of womanhood, I would hope that my womanliness isn’t defined by being doubled over in pain, moaning to no one in particular “make it stop, make it stop…”

  298. Wendy says:

    Um… Femme..you said
    “That said I would go slow for you seeing that I understand men lack language skills”
    that was kind of a cheap shot, eh?
    And OWBWB, I understand you feel strongly, but did you have to start SHOUTING? (using all caps). And why do you call something “male” to mean “bad”. I mean, you’re a male right? How could it possibly be true that all things male are bad?

  299. a teacher says:

    I’ve been lurking compulsively for a few nights, and Annoyed Lawyer’s post made something click for me. This is not a resolvable question b/c the pro-inclusion side is making a moral argument and the pro-exclusion side is making an emotional one. Annoyed Lawyer sums up the moral weight of the trans-inclusion position. The WBW-only defense boils down to “the status quo gives us something we value and fear we will lose.” Its core is not a moral argument but an emotional one. That doesn’t make it less weighty: on the contrary. To be clear, I don’t think a strongly felt emotion should ever be the basis for excluding a class of people. But an emotional position isn’t going to yield to logic and it would be more useful to address the heart than the head.

    I’m a dyke in my mid-30′s who came out in my late teens, in the late 80′s. My only time at Michigan was in 1990, the year before this brouhaha boiled up. Coincidentally, that was the same year my education on trans topics began, with a training for a peer counseling hotline I was involved with. I never again felt I could return to the festival, but until now I’ve never been public about that decision (so I suppose I am sitting with cicely on the fence). At the time I began my silent boycott my understanding of the issues was pretty much theoretical, but in the 15 years since I’ve learned more and my own reactions have been a mixture of the moral and the emotional. I’m offering them in the spirit of the openness and honesty I’ve seen in this discussion (for the most part).

    I still have only had one friend of about my age who actually transitioned (FTM) during the time we were acquainted. (Given the rarity of transsexuality, and that I draw my friends more from my mixed-but-mostly-het shul than from anywhere else, that’s not all that surprising.) I had known “her” pre-transition as a very butch dyke, and even though he announced his decision very abruptly, it made sense to me as an extension of who he had always been. Watching his happiness was delightful; hearing of his difficulties renegotiating various relationships was hard. So my own reaction in that case was straightforward sympathy with the ups and downs of a life-altering decision and my moral duty to support my friend was just what I wanted to do anyhow. Also, this was my friend, not someone in the abstract. I knew where he was coming from, if not entirely where he was going.

    I have had much more complicated reactions to a couple of younger people I know, raised as girls and now in their late teens or early 20′s, who have chosen to adopt male/gender-neutral names and genderqueer pronouns. Morally my duty to respect their choice is clear, as is my duty to refrain from grilling them on how they arrived at that decision. After all, these are not my own family, but former students or children of friends. But I can’t accept their decisions wholeheartedly (that emotonal organ). I feel loss and discomfort, even while I can see they are doing something as brave as coming out.

    Unpacking that sense of loss I find sadness and rejection. I identify with these young people as women coming up behind me, and in turn behind the women I followed. I think back to myself at their age, finding my way to women-only communities. These were NOT always self-conscious or “policed” spaces, just places where women hung out and were friends and where men happened not to be, whether by accident or design. In those settings I marvelled at the multiplicity of genders within “woman” and it gave me courage to find my own way of being a woman. For that matter, my FTM friend also took strength from those kinds of communities and it was a deep loss for him to wind up excluded from some. I feel that my young acquaintances are rejecting something that changed my life, quite likely saved my life. Or, when I am sadder, I wonder if these spaces are still available to young women at all. Is it easier to find kindred spirits if you make a jump to genderqueer nomenclature? Sisterhood *was* powerful–is it still? Are the standards of femininity so brutal now (and every day I see that the 80′s were a golden era compared to now) that young dykes flee for the tranny hills? Or am I overreacting to something that has just plain changed in the past 15-20 years?

    And if it has changed, shouldn’t Michigan? The fact of declining attendance suggests that whatever it *is* doing, the exclusion policy isn’t preserving the space in the way its advocates hope.

    (For the record, the two young people I allude to present as dykey but not that butch. Other students I’ve had presented as much more masculine, even to the point of functioning socially as boys. I know I would have uncomplicated, positive reactions to hearing that one of these butch girls was transitioning because I already have that kind of question mark around them. So I admit to holding onto a kind of gender normativity. Also for the record, I love my boys who come to school in skirts from time to time. Wow, is that brave! So I admit to rooting for more people to come over to “my side.”)

  300. Femme says:

    Wendy you’re right, what I should have said was that he clearly isn’t up on language skills, not judged all men in general. I appoligise to anyone that was offended by that statement.

    Hannah I agree, Alison I’ve been reading you for so long now. I’m not one who has to see the very next one as soon as it is done, but I do enjoy seeing just where you take the strip, and us along with it, as you move through the many characters you’ve created.

    Thanks

  301. Andrew B says:

    Contrary to what some people have been saying, Cynthia did not come out (or out herself) in this episode. She outed Ashley and made a public comment about how Ashley conducts her private life. What Cynthia said is perfectly consistent with the possibility that Cynthia is straight and Ashley has been harassing a straight girl. If I were in the class with them and I didn’t know them or their history, that is probably what I would assume. Cynthia is straight-appearing and very public about her generally right-wing views.

    I don’t think Cynthia meant to do this. How she handles it will be a real test of her character. Is she going to leave a false accusation hanging over Ashley or is she truly going to come out?

    And as long as I’m commenting, I enjoyed seeing Stella get up in Raffi’s face, even in a somewhat misguided way. She seemed so beaten down for a while there. For her to treat her parents’ breakup as a style point, like knowledge of a cool new band, is somehow both poignant and funny.

    A question, though: why isn’t Raffi just Raffosaurus? Why does he get to be Rex? Why is he burdened with being Rex?

  302. Duncan says:

    re: Dana Tak’s note that straights don’t get as upset about trans people as gays. I disagree. I doubt that it’s gay people who are killing trans teenagers. Judith Halberstam has written, in her book Female Masculinity, about women policing gender in women’s restrooms. (Alison had a strip about this, oh, wayyyyy back in the 80s. It’s in the first collection, before she started telling the story of Mo and her pals.) For that matter, it isn’t just trans people who are policed in schoolyards, on the street, and so on. Some of us are old enough to remember when men whose hair was longer than a butch cut would get harassed (and sometimes attacked) on the street: “Hey, is that a boy or a girl? I can’t tell!” So no, I don’t think it is just gay people who fuss about gender.

    Andrew B, that’s interesting, and you’re may be right, though why do you assume that Ashley was “outed”? You can’t “out” people who are already out.

  303. Jacqui says:

    Re. “Ms.” etc.–when I was at the University of Chicago all faculty, no matter how senior, went by Mr. or Ms., except for a few younger ones who liked us to call them by first names. I don’t think anyone regarded it as disrespectful; we just didn’t distinguish by degrees or level of professorship.

  304. Dana Tak says:

    “Dana Tak’s note that straights don’t get as upset about trans people as gays.”

    Invalidate my experiences, sure, why not? Its all the rage these days. I got used to that first thing after I started getting accepted as female.

    I also live in a liberal big city, and dress down. Blue jeans, ect. I know it was the gay bar not the straight one where someone got pissed if I used the can, the LBGT club at school that was pissy about my declaring my own sexuality. “I was supposed to be a T person, not an L person, the nerve of me” Not my straight friends, its the gay press that uses the words “mutilate” to refer to srs. It was my gay friends who were squicked about my surgery, not my straight ones.

    And lastly the straight people who understood, “I got the wrong body I want it fixed” not the gay ones who thought I should “learn to love me for me and my (politically accepatble) alternate sexuality and not mutilate myself” without knowing or caring or bothering to ask who “myself” IS!

    And I’m not a “transgendered person” I WAS one. I have a very legit, id, passport and birth cretificate. I dress and act like a normal person I NEVER use the T word, just another woman, and by and large I get treated that way. NO thanks to the “transgender” community who wanted me to be out, public and educating, instead of leading my life.

    I’ve NEVER been threatened, and not been harassed in years EXEPT in the Dyke bar, and face surgery stopped that. If so many “out trannies” acted and dressed like normal women instead of like mad parrots they wouldn’t draw fire. this works, I know it. Keep your head down, act normal, and dont draw attention. And lastly Don’t date anyone and not TELL them. Yes I know its probabay not right, but I like my life I struggled for not a martyrdom for the “cause”

    I know who gave me shit and made me miserable when I was transtioning and it “mostly” was Not the straight people. If you are getting that kind of thing you need to move to a semi civilzed blue city where people don’t care about it.

  305. shadocat says:

    OWBWB”s entries and responses such as Femme’s have beought me bak to the bickering table again.

    I don’t buy the whole agrument that we were raised as women and women’s experiences.I was raised to be a straight woman. To marry a nice guy, and have a lot of chidren. Things didn’t exactly go that way…I’m single, I only had 2 kids, and I am a lesbian, and a happy one at that.

    Also, I don’t “bleed” anymore. I haven’t for over 12 years. I had a total hysterectomy and all diseased parts went away. I haven’tbled since and I’ve never been happier. Does this qualify me as trans?I may be losing one of my breasts soon-if I choose a double masectomy, what sex will I be then?

    While spewing my emotional guts, I might as well go all the way. When I was 11, I was beaten and raped by a group of much older girls.They had decided I was a “QUEER” and I should get what they percieved I was asking for…

    This incident made me retreat far back into my “emotional closet”. I didn’twnt to be associated with anything remotely homosexual for many years. Women can and do hurt other women, even hurt their very sexuality, their “essence of being” There are no safe paces, even among other WBW

  306. cicely says:

    a teacher Says:

    I’ve been lurking compulsively for a few nights, and Annoyed Lawyer’s post made something click for me. This is not a resolvable question b/c the pro-inclusion side is making a moral argument and the pro-exclusion side is making an emotional one. Annoyed Lawyer sums up the moral weight of the trans-inclusion position. The WBW-only defense boils down to “the status quo gives us something we value and fear we will lose.” Its core is not a moral argument but an emotional one. That doesn’t make it less weighty: on the contrary. To be clear, I don’t think a strongly felt emotion should ever be the basis for excluding a class of people. But an emotional position isn’t going to yield to logic and it would be more useful to address the heart than the head.

    Between the two of you, Annoyed Lawyer and A Teacher, I think you’ve provided a new place to kick off from. (So, yes, here I am again…) Just to avoid the confusion around the word ‘inclusion’ though, because both sides of the debate claim it (pro boundary women say the festival is not exclusive of transwomen but inclusive of women who were identified as female at birth and have lived their entire lives to now as women) I’m going to speak of pro boundary and anti boundary women.

    I wonder whether we can mostly agree on where each group is coming from.

    In an exploratory spirit, I’ll say what I think at the moment. I think the pro-boundary group is definitely coming from an emotional standpoint when they speak of the things they’re afraid of losing, most of which are beyond the ‘right’ to freedom of association, as per the civil rights scenario illustrated by Annoyed Lawyer. They’re feelings around a belief that their overall shared experience is unique to them, and only they can understand it, often in unspoken ways. This is no doubt true, but the meanings of this are also no doubt debatable. There are significant limitations in ‘sameness’ because the ‘ways’ women from different backgrounds – or even families within a particular culture – are socialised – even *as* women, can vary greatly too.(and yes, shadocat, I know too that WBW and lesbians can hurt each other.) That’s sort of why I was asking if anyone could say – beyond a right to gather exclusively – exactly what they feel they would be losing if transwomen were invited into the festival. I wanted to establish what the difference is between them and me – because I don’t feel, as a WBW, that I would lose anything that I would value more highly than not contributing to discrimination against a marginalised minority of women.

    Whether the festival ‘intends’ to contribute to discrimination against transwomen, I can’t determine, but I believe it does anyway. The festival owners must know that if they were to actually advertise that transwomen were expressly prohibited from the Land, they’d be opening themselves up to legal action on civil rights grounds. They say they don’t ‘put up a sign’ because, as feminists, they don’t work that way. (Tools of the Master’ etc) They prefer to request that transwomen respect a stated intention that the festival is not for them. It’s impossible to imagine that some transwomen wouldn’t see this as being asked to contribute to discrimination against themselves, particularly if they have a strong desire to attend this exact festival with WBW friends who wax lyrical about it. And this brings me to the next ingredient in the pro boundary position. Politics.

    How much do separatist radical feminist and lesbian-feminist politics *inform* this boundary? In any debate about trans inclusion on the michfest political discussion boards you will find transwomen being called men ( ‘taking drugs and cutting off body parts do not a woman make’), having their debating style or manner of expression described as ‘male’, being told that their interpretation of their own lived experience is wrong (because it doesn’t align with feminist politics that can’t accomodate it) and so on ad-infinitum.

    Finally, as I’ve said earlier, political rhetoric *and* ‘our unique experience’ arguements can both serve to disguise genuine and staight out transphobia.

    My conclusion is that pro boundary women are coming from an emotional and/or political place. If it’s emotional, I agree that we need to talk about those emotions, and if it’s political we need to ask ‘is this actually a radical feminist/lesbian-feminist festival following a particular set of ideological values? ‘, because if it is, some-one needs to say so. I’m not holding my breath.

    On the other side – I do think that anti boundary women are overwhelmingly arguing from a moral perspective – with the potential of support from civil rights laws – against discrimination. Of course there is an emotional component here as well. It would be impossible for there not to be. There may also be a political one for some trans-activists who are advancing transexuality as a challenge to the gender binary, against the radfem arguement that it supports and entrenches it.

  307. Andrew B says:

    Duncan, I take your point. I was using “outed” loosely, to mean something like “made a public issue of”. There surely were some kids in that class who were unaware of Ashley’s sexual identity before Cynthia’s remark, just because they weren’t paying attention. But you’re right, Ashley’s not closeted.

  308. Kelseigh says:

    “If so many “out trannies” acted and dressed like normal women instead of like mad parrots they wouldn’t draw fire.”

    When you wrote this, Dana, it really bothered me, but I had to really think for a while about why that is. I think I’m starting to get a handle on it.

    It’s not that you stated that, because from your perspective it’s absolutely true. And, to be honest, it is. If we pass perfect, if we dress and act appropriately and blend in, we don’t generally have problems. But what your words highlight are some of the Catch-22 situations transsexual women find themselves in.

    Trans women are expected to be perfect, straight out of the gate. We’re not allowed to spend time experimenting, trying things out, no we’re expected to know what we want to look like, act like, sound like and all the rest, and settle into that mode the day we start living our lives as ourselves, full time. Other women do the same thing, but they get a pass since they usually do it when they’re about 16 years old. It’s generally called puberty, and it’s generally done in the relative safety of a peer group that’s all doing the same thing. But when you go through puberty in your 30′s? Forget it.

    But we face that same damned if you do reaction all over, really. For instance, how the queer community tars us for not giving alternate gender expressions a try if we transition early, but being recipient and carrier of male privilege if we transition late. Or if we spend time researching and really going in depth figuring out styles pre-transition it points to an obsession with the superficial, but if we do it post-transition we’re being parodies of women. You can’t win for losing.

  309. liza from pine street art works says:

    How does a “normal” woman dress? I’d rather dress like a mad parrot. I’m imagining glorious vivid colors. And maybe some wild feathers and trinkets here and there.

  310. Kelseigh says:

    I dress like a (relatively) sane parrot. Which often means blue jeans, tank top and some sort of Hawaiian shirt.

    I’m a bit odd.

  311. Ellen O. says:

    Kelseigh wrote

    >

    Hey, you just described my wardrobe!

    “Hawaiian” shirts saved my fashion life at work. When I started my new job with the city here in Boulder, I was at a loss how to dress for the summer. It’s a casual place, but solid T-shirts weren’t dressy enough (at least not for women, I felt) and more “feminine” shirts (big quotation marks there) with scoop or V-necks don’t flatter me.

    The ol’ time lesbian down the hall had an array of playful, Hawaiian shirts that looked great on her. So, I ordered two from the Men’s Section of Land’s End and picked up another at the grocery store. Cheery, comfy and just dressy enough.

    But is there a name for them other than “Hawaiian?” Euro-Americans have committed enough horrors in Hawaii; naming goofy clothing after the place seems like one more slap in the face.

  312. Juliegrrl20 says:

    Would you really say to a transwoman’s face that they dress like a “mad parrot” or is that just something you would say with the anonymity of cyberspace? I think that is a terrible thing to say! I am a plus size “femme” lesbian, size 22, and I have a VERY limited number of stores that I can go to for even remotely trendy clothes. I can’t imagine what it would be like to try to find a trendy blouse when you are 6’2 and have broad shoulders! Damn near impossible I’m sure!! I applaud any transwoman for stepping out of the house clothed! I’d be tempted to wrap a bed sheet around myself in a fetching toga style gown, throw on some snazzy heels and be out the door in that!!!

  313. Kelseigh says:

    Hehe. You and I might as well be sisters, Julie. I’m an inch taller than you and a couple of sizes smaller, but that’s pretty small change. Finding women’s clothes to fit my arms and legs is an ongoing challenge, and to be honest other than tank tops I end up relegated to making men’s clothes look good (usually successfully, thank goodness). But heaven help me if there’s ever something formal to go to. I’m pretty much sunk!

  314. shadocat says:

    Looking over my last post, the biggest mistake I made (besides the typos and misspellings) was going to far over the emotional boundaries I (should) have set for myself. I am a lesbian, WBW (apparently) but due to my life experiences, I identify greatly with those who are treated with such bigotry and disrespect, as trans women often are, by the lesbian community. And as I said in a previous post, trans people seem to be the last bastion
    for bigotry, even violence, directed at them.

    As a “natural-born ” woman, I can understand the need to be separate, to be among one’s own. And even for the most liberal of us, change is hard to accept. To change our perceptions and ideas of what is female, what makes a woman a woman is difficult. But how can we include trans people under our banner of “GLBT” yet exclude trans women, when we, who were born this gender, gather? To act in such a manner makes us the “Opressor” no better the the “Patriarchy” we feminist used to, and continue to fight.

  315. mlk says:

    if you read my postings on the “holy batman” thread, you’ll see that I’ve been hanging with Aunt Soozie on this matter. Cicely’s reframing this as a “proboundaries” and “antiboundaries” debate really helped me see this differently. boundaries I understand, and as Cicely suggested, they’re a good launching point for further discussion.

    even after posting about this on the “holy batman” thread (which seemed to have killed the more frothy postings; I need to see if I can remedy that) I realized that suggesting a trans tent at Michigan would probably be offensive to trans women. and reasonably so; trans women don’t want to be placed in a ghetto. this may be an even more ridiculous suggestion, but could there be an “open” tent for trans women . . . so women who feel threatened by “dealing w/trans issues” are less likely to have the perception (and make the argument) that the festival is being invaded and co-oped?

    pls give me points for seeking a solution and work w/me . . .

    I’m going to make an admission here. I spend so much of my life outside my comfort zone and have so little experience with trans women that it’s difficult for me to identify with their barriers in gaining acceptance. I was appalled when I read of the difficulties you face accessing institutions and services for women . . . but that didn’t make me eager to support trans women and their seeking entrance into MWMF.

    and Kelseigh, thank you for examining and explaining your feelings about Dana’s comment. I suspect you’re right on the mark. it’s been wonderful to meet you and lyssa and Kathy and the other trans women who’ve posted.

    finally, as a boundaries person, it’s been incredibly useful to be reminded of the incredible diversity among women. it makes our childhood and adolescent experiences — and whether we were born in a female or male body — much less important in determining who’s to be included in women’s space.

  316. Dyke with PCOS Menstruating with Metformin says:

    > # piny Says:
    > September 28th, 2006 at 2:51 pm
    > That having been said, I don’t know too many ciswomen who are > all, “Thank God I can menstruate! I don’t know what I’d do if > I didn’t get my period every month! I’d be so pissed!”

    I personally do say “Thank goodness I’m getting a period every month! I’d be so pissed if I stopped menstruating again.” I’m sure lots of other ciswomen with PCOS and fertility problems feel the same way I do. I’m grateful for the meds that make me bleed, because they mean that I just might be able to have a baby someday.

    I’m not surprised to hear some transwomen say that they are sad about not menstruating.

  317. Kelseigh says:

    You’re welcome, mlk. I’ve been very fortunate in finding this discussion, and all the outstanding women involved in it.

    To go to what you actually said though, you’re absolutely right that trans women don’t want a ghetto. Honestly, most if not nearly all of the trans women who want to go to Fest want to go for the “women” part, not the “trans” part. It’s as simple as a woman wanting to attend a women’s event, but not wishing to hide or be ashamed of her past.

    But more, I went to the Women’s Voices Festival up here in Ontario last year, and it was a fantastic experience, despite my friend’s later comment about how it doesn’t hold a candle to the much larger MichFest. And yes, it is a fully accepting environment for trans women and every other sort of women alike. With no need for separate tents or internal divisions. The underlying feeling I found throughout the whole event was women being with women and enjoying the music and each other.

    Which brings me, of course, to the oft-repeated complaint of pro-exclusion advocates, there are all those other accepting places, why pick on poor Michigan? And if you don’t look at it too closely, it’s almost a reasonable complaint. Until you realize that other festivals allowing in trans women *without* sacrificing that feeling of sisterhood in fact invalidates a large part of the argument for exclusion. Which is to say, the fear that Michigan will lose some inexplicable something, which these other festivals (although not as many as they claim) don’t seem to be losing. Certainly the one I attended didn’t, and that was from the words of a Michigan attendee.

  318. stringy says:

    so, as someone who’s never attended the mich. fest, i’m still wondering…what WAS the deal with the “shower” episode mentioned in that letter? does anyone know? was it just some woman saw something unfamiliar in the shower and freaked, or was it someone intentionally trying to upset people? because the story is painted as a pretty serious boundery violation, if it truly happened the way she said it did.

  319. mlk says:

    I did some reading on MWMF and this whole controversy. the shower episode occurred when the genitalia of a FTM person in the shower were unintentionally exposed and seen. it wasn’t an intentional boundary violation.

    One might ask why this person was at Mich Fest to begin with.

    Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I read this. but it wasn’t too hard to find. what would we do without Google!?!!?

  320. SimonE says:

    If one did ask this person (Tony Barreto-Neto to give him a mane) why he was at Michfest to begin with, here´s his answer:
    “I was asked why I was there, since I was a man, and what did I care for womyn-only space? I told them that for forty-five years I lived as a lesbian. I went to jail countless times in the 60s and 70s for ‘appearing in public disguised’ for wearing the clothes of the opposite sex, which all us dykes did back then. We were the ones along with the nellie fags getting our asses kicked and going to jail while all the white collar business and professional people who are here enjoying this festival were staying home and hiding behind a guise of heterosexuality.”

    Sadly his whole account isn´t online anymore, since the camp trans website has moved (did anybody save it?). IIRC he asked womyn in the area if they would be OK with him taking a shower including festival workers. But that´s only my relatively mudded memory…

  321. cicely says:

    I came across this very interesting and also civil discussion about transwomen and michfest as a result of – yes – a google search! (search was ‘womyn born womyn events around the world’) Some points of view were expressed here that I hadn’t seen before. I’m planning to print some of it off tomorrow the better to absorb it. Review rating so far: Four or five stars!!

    http://www.barbelith.com/topic/23933/from/70

    The ’70′ on the end of that address refers to the post number where the michfest stuff really starts if I’ve got it right. There might be a bit before then as well.

  322. Kelseigh says:

    Interesting link, cicely, although some of it makes my head spin from the academic-level dialogue at times. But there’s some good commentary in there.

    I especially like the comment by Alas on page 5 that a lot of the anti-trans side seems to be motivated by fear, and that’s consistent with Ms. Vogel’s 70′s-based “once male, always male” attitudes, as well as the “circling the wagons” behaviour when trans people made gains and were seen as a threat. Although the prescription based on that is a little different in my point of view.

    Yes, it’s less likely to get a fearful person’s back up if you take a more subtle, passive approach, but at what point do you draw the line, and say “I will not be disrespected”, particularly when passivity is seen as capitulation? I feel that active opposition does have a place here, and the roots of these poisonous attitudes, which breed the fear mentioned earlier, must be exposed to scrutiny. And if that’s uncomfortable for those in (relative) power, then I say so be it.

  323. Liz says:

    I would like to add a post. A month ago my partner and I lost Lily, our Blue Point Siamese cat to mammary cancer. We got her eleven years ago on our 3rd anniversary as a present to give each other and my partner also got me yellow roses. Much like the cats in the DTWOF strip Lily would sleep on my pillow, lick our hair and our faces along with our Chocolate Point named Jacki.

    Our beloved cat was beginning to suffer and I took her to the veterinarian and he gave a grim diagnosis. He said that our cat was no longer enjoying life, she had stopped eating, she was lethargic and her breathing was becoming labored. We scheduled to have her put to sleep two days later. We put her in her favorite blanket, we took a solitary yellow rose with us to the vets and my partner and I both held her when she was euthanized. We did not want to abandon our cat we stayed with her to the very end, we held each other and we cried. Even our veterinarian held our hands and consoled us.

    It was the best strip Alison has created in a long time and it brings people back to reality and reminds us of the power of unconditional love, and what we can learn from our furry four-footed family members who don’t judge us or have issues.

  324. cicely says:

    Join the club, kesleigh! I find my head spinning quite a lot at the academic depth of analysis in various places I visit in the feminist blogosphere. It can be quite intimidating, but that’s where a lot of the jewels are too. Anyway, the bottom line for me is always people’s real day to day lives. I especially mean the actual ‘hurts’ that, in my opinion, are generally under-acknowledged – maybe because we’re all still in the heat of a 30+ year old battle. We’re not looking back yet, unfortunately.

    I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve written and it was nice to see some intelligent and respectful stuff about pro- trans-inclusion views and activities, as opposed to ‘they’re just spreading a bunch of lies about michfest’ which is regularly trotted out by some on the michfest boards.

    Anti-trans views and politics a la women like Janice Raymond, Sheila Jeffreys, Germaine Greer and their followers are real, and they do exacerbate cisgendered women’s fears, imo. All of it needs to be exposed so women are fully informed. I noticed even in that conversation on barbelith that one of the very articulate women semed quite unaware that there is a radical feminist/lesbian-feminist view that in a perfect feminist world transexuality would not exist. The question for these feminists is how to ‘deal’ with those who do exist in the meantime, while discouraging people from making a decision to transition in the here and now. I know of at least one lesbian and feminist who is openly struggling with this. She feels it would be ‘wrong’ to transition FTM, for political reasons, but ‘right’ in terms of improving her own life. I fail to see how her having to go through this advances feminist aims. It certainly doesn’t advance mine.

  325. Aneilie says:

    @
    SimonE Says:
    October 4th, 2006 at 1:05 pm

    I symphathize so much with your post. There has been lots of discussion on this thread about MTFs having access to the fest. And then there is the question of FTMs.

    There is a very famous lesbian spring festival in Germany each year. It seems to have a similar meaning for the lgbt communties in Germany.

    I attended the workshop “why ftms at the fest?”. Well naturally not all ftms feel they want to attend, but for the ones that feel this way: One very important answer is, because they have always been there. They were part of making this space possible. that is were their lesbian friends go to. it IS their community.

  326. SimonE says:

    The Lesbenfrühlingstreffen? My personal feelings are that it´s somewhat similar, although I´ve seen far less rhethoric from the LFT that I take issue with. I know a bunch of FtMs who went there last year and did some sort of info-stuff. So, did you meet Jan Janus or Ines-Paul? (Or phrased differently: Is the world a small place?)

    SimonE

  327. geogeek says:

    ****
    Andrew B Says:
    September 29th, 2006 at 11:34 am

    A question, though: why isn’t Raffi just Raffosaurus? Why does he get to be Rex? Why is he burdened with being Rex?
    ****
    In response to a post from the dark ages, Rafosaurus Rex ~ Tyrannosaurus Rex. Plus it scans well. I particularly liked the mention of Su, the T. Rex at the museum, in the long material of “Invasion of Dyke to Watch Out For”. Presumably Stelociraptor ~ Velociraptor (i.e. “Fast Thief”, though raptor now carries a connotation more like “Fast Bad-Ass Meateater”).

  328. Aneilie says:

    @
    SimonE Says:
    October 5th, 2006 at 2:57 pm

    yeah, I went to the workshop by Chris Schenk last year in Berlin. I think Ines-Paul was there. There were lots of ftms, genderqueers at the fest in general. I liked it. There were also several other workshops on gender.

    Then this year in Leipzig is was like not a topic at all. The organizers change every year, that does lots for diversity. I did enjoy that polyamory and east-west-german cultural differences where discussed.

  329. DesiFemme says:

    Ok, I missed the heat of the fight, looks like, and I doubt anyone’s reading anymore.

    Still, a few thoughts, in case they are helpful (or rather in case anyone’s really listening):

    1. re: a post long ago in this discussion about Kate Bornstein choosing not to come into wbw spaces because she no longer (at some point) identifies as a woman OR a man (and this being held up as a model for other ‘good’ trans and gender-queer folk: *where*, exactly, is she/he to go? to just kick it, hang out, find company?

    in other words, trans folk generally have even *fewer* (way fewer) places to go and feel safe(r) than those who were seen and identified themselves as women / female from birth.

    i’ll believe the claim that “wbw is a sub-group / gender identity within a larger queer / many-gendered group, and we support (other) trans-inclusive space” when i see these viable, large, safe trans-inclusive spaces, and when i see the folks making these arguments engaging in ally-work done to create these spaces.

    2. trans and gender-queer experience *is* in and of itself an experience of oppression. trans and genderqueer folk are hugely targeted by violence and hostility. often, since childhood (let’s complicate this story of ‘they had all the male privilege in the world growing up).

    being *gender-normative* is the corresponding privilege.

    i am oppressed as a woman.
    i have privilege as a (relatively) gender-normative woman.
    this is a significant privilege.

    these dynamics on the gender continnum operate both in larger society ( the tareting being an intensification of the violence we all face for stepping out of gender norms) AND in feminist spaces (an understatement). motivated by different but overlapping phobias.

    3. re: the deep-rootedness of transition: word. transition – what i’ve seen and read – is intense. characterizing trans experience ‘having decided for 10 minutes’ [i.e. that they are a woman] (a paraphrase of an above comment) feels deeply disrespectful of the gut-wrenching processes i’ve born witness to. not that transition has to be trauma-filled to gain respect. but please, *do* listen, read, hear the experiences of those who’ve undergone transition (as the feminist-lesbian who’s sibling / sister transitioned did, above) before coming to conclusions on the meaning, identity, or weight of trans experience.

    as someone who, at one point, felt that people should be able to accept themselves ‘as they were’ rather than change their bodies, and that transwomen were men trying to shed their privilege or appropriate women’s experiences, i left a workshop where two transpeople shared their experience realizing how deeply gendered we all are, whether or not i wanted to admit it. i realized that while i’d been able to actively re-define what being a woman meant for me (as opposed to the narrow confines i’d been taught), others’ experiences were different; that they perhaps could not find ‘home’ in their assigned-at-birth gender even after pushing and screaming at the boundaries of the definitions (nor does everyone want to). i learned to hear the experience of those who weren’t able to make it work for them, even after trying, at times, for years. And finally, that I had no right to judge how other folks went about resolving their sense of self or the dilemnas of gender identity.

    after learning to appreciate the deep-rootedness of this struggle, i could no longer pass it off as flippant or an appropriation.

  330. Aneilie says:

    desi,

    thanks for the nice post. I am still reading here and, yeah I was late posting as well.

    over time I come to the conclusion, that even though I am fairly gender-normative from the outside, meaning I pass as a woman, I do feel that wbw-exclusive spaces are very much NOT safe for me.

    I qualify as wbw, though.

  331. SC says:

    Sheesh, all this damn talk about mtfs being wimmin, having wimmin’s experiences (while at the same time saying that wimmin can’t understand or have THEIR experiences) is just scads more of the same heteropatriarcal bullshit that wimmin get all the time, ie, ‘we know who and what you are and we know what’s best for you so sit down, shut up and suck it up big!’

    Transwomen have their own experiences and they can call them ‘women’s’ experiences if they want (after all it is still a free country right?) but that doesn’t in any sense make them the same as or even near the experiences of wimmin. If you want respect for your lives then you’ve gotta stop telling us what ours is about in relationship to yours.

  332. riotllama says:

    ummm, mtfs are “wimmin”. theres no “heteropatriarcal bullshit” when women are saying “stop excluding me” to a group of women with more privilege. read above for further and more elequent arguments. and keep your vitriol for a different thread.

  333. DesiFemme says:

    SC: People with less privilege have *always* been telling (or trying to tell) those with more privilege what their lives mean in relation to the lives of folks with less privilege, in other words, the lives they impact. Feminism tells this to men; women of color to white feminists; transwomen to feminists in general.

    In this case, it seems folks are having trouble deciding who’s the ‘more’ privileged (is it men? is it lesbians?) and who’s the ‘targeted’ (is it lesbians? is it transwomen?) . To understand how transwomen can be women who may have once had some type of male or masculine experience (and we all agree that patriarchy punishes effeminate men, right? as an expression of its misogyny — yeah?), AND who have a specific history of heteropatriarchal oppression, *does* take a lot of being still and listening, of taking in another’s experience.

    Which is why AB is probably so good at it — detail-oriented, observant, able to hold many realities. (tho i kinda have doubts about a self-respecting *progressive* — meaning, i hope to god, anti-imperialist — arab woman knowingly teaching a future CIA agent her language.) (even if she once lived in toledo.)

    Anyway, any group that starts seeing themselves as *only* victims and never owning their own shit gets pretty damn dangerous pretty damn fast. And for all the amazing space that lesbians have carved out, I’m afraid that there’s a lot of reactivity still happening (which tells me that healing hasn’t really happened). (damn i’m getting *so* west coast).

    On that tip: we *all* are in relation to each other; the meanings and spaces we create impact others, and we have the right to communicate that impact.

  334. Kathy says:

    The more interesting question about FTM inclusion in women’s space (and scads of FTMs enter women’s space on a regular basis) is not what the particular reasoning or logistics are. What is truly interesting about FTM entry into women’s space how little emotional hostility it engenders.

    If a guy named Bob, who insists on being called he and him walks in the gate of MWMF, that’s fine. People might mourn the social forces that made him feel he had to become a man. They might mourn the loss of butches in the community.

    But they won’t freak out, call him sick, describe him as a “ugly monster” (a quote from the MWMF boards btw) and having him removed from the festival. There won’t be the sheer vitriolic hatred that you will find against transwomen.

    And that is basically what is meant by “trans-misogyny.”

  335. Blue says:

    Sorry to be a downer, but all I can see is this blog. Where is the strip?! Does Bechdel take it down now when a new one comes up?

  336. Blue says:

    Ok, I’ve worked out that it must be a Firefox issue, as I can see the strip fine in IE. It does look good! But the loading time is insane on a dial up connection, and because of this your eye always reads the top few posts – which inevitably contain spoilers.

    This can be fixed! I think it’s a padding issue, in both cases. If you adjust the div that contains the blog post lower down the page by a percentage, rather than a fixed point, you should be able to load the image without reading any blogs accidentally. Also, checking the spacing fixes will show where things are going wrong in Firefox.

    Also, if you want to keep this quality but reduce d/l speed, you can ‘slice and stagger’ the image, effectively making it 6 or so smaller pieces, which load in sequence. Overall, it’ll take half the time and be the same quality image.

  337. annon... says:

    i have a few questions about the whole wbw thing…

    1.would women who were born hermaphdrodite(sorry not a good speller) be allowed? that is a woman who was born with both male and female parts, or a woman who is outwardly male but has female chromosones and has corrective surgery to fix it

    2. what about post-op mtf’s? those that have the surgery and have all the male parts taken out and have female parts put on…

  338. Sir Real says:

    Kathy, there’s an interesting (I think) twist on this… WOW Cafe Theatre has been around, first as a festival, then as a anarchist collective with a theater space, since 1980. Until 2005, membership was for women. Now it’s for women and transgender people, a change I’m proud to say I helped bring about.

    When questions of trans-inclusion came up, there was some opposition to MtF folks joining, but that didn’t last very long. Unlike other trans-inclusion struggles I’ve heard about, transwomen were pretty quickly accepted as potential members. After a while, we started using the phrase “self-identified woman”, that is to say, we accept the individual’s personal identity, regardless of biology.

    The biggest conflicts were over transmen. There was considerable resistance against men of any sort being there, even though WOW members generally were familiar with far more transmen, than transwomen. Eventually, the consensus changed about that.

    The thing is, I wonder _why_. Maybe, as theatre people, we have a faith in the transformative power of _words_. We create whole unverses onstage just by speaking them… why shouldn’t we believe someone’s word that she’s a woman?

    That’s a speculation, of course! Still, I wonder why our particular struggle went down that way. wowcafe.org is our website, pray do check us out if you’re in NYC ;)

  339. SC says:

    Even in trans theory gender is still dependent on biology for definition otherwise why is feminine/masculine still defined & acted on only by female or male imitations and limitations?

    I have got to think that gender isn’t separate from biology in the trans universe either. Defining & modifying yourself in reaction and according to binary/biological/social norms still situates you well within that reality. If gender was truly just about identity then it wouldn’t matter what female-bodied persons did or what they called themselves because, supposedly, everyone is free to be anything they want to be and deserve respect for it.

    This obviously isn’t true because the rights of female-bodied persons to gather together by themselves and for themselves or defining themselves without input or consideration of others is constantly under attack. If being a woman was really just an identity then why does it matter so much what anyone does with it?

    Would it help any if all of us female-bodied-loving-female-bodied folks just up and left, went on to something different as it were, and left women/woman for the rest of you? Speaking for myself I really like the idea because there are just tons of other female-specific & terrific names out there that I’d rather be using anyway, especially if it got the gender-obsessed off our backs about it.

  340. riotllama says:

    yes please do. but you’d have to take trans dykes with you.
    plus there’d be a bunch of people with female bodies, who happen to love others with female bodies (like me) who think would never want to leave.
    and the definition of gender is so not dependant on some stupid nonexistant male/female dichotemy.
    are you confusing sex with gender?
    thats the only way i could think you think all trans folks identify or want to work within a gender binary or social norms at all. open your eyes and ears SC. I’m sick of you.

  341. SC says:

    No we wouldn’t have to take them with us rl and I think your nastiness betrays the fact that you know that that would be true if, and only if, transgenderism were truly non-essential. If transgenderism was truly about separating gender from sex then you shouldn’t have a problem at all with females going their own way and naming themselves as they please. You betray yourself very clearly because I think you know that my question very well illustrates the fact that transgenderism, for all it’s hyperbole, is just a rewarming of a cold pile of essentialist shit as everyone knows it.

    >>and the definition of gender is so not dependant on some stupid nonexistant male/female dichotemy.

  342. SC says:

    Here’s the rest of my answer that didn’t get up.

    >>and the definition of gender is so not dependant on some stupid nonexistant male/female dichotemy.

  343. SC says:

    Then what does it depend on? It doesn’t exist in nor did it arise from a vacuum and clearly the attempts to ‘realign’ physical sex with a self-centering notion of opposite ‘gender’ based on the sexual/social constructions & assignments of gender by the mainstream indicates that you are operating clearly from and defining yourself according to and within mainstream constructs. You only circled the block kiddo and then you went right back home.

  344. riotllama says:

    what on earth makes you think that everyone who’s trans is attempting to ‘realign’ their “physical sex with a self-centering notion of opposite ‘gender’”
    there’s so much more than a binary. I’m over this. get smart.

  345. SC says:

    I am smart, rll. Smart enough to know that no matter how you dress your gender issues it still all boils down to being one or the other, no matter how you name or dress yourself up. Trans is stuck in the binary and trans is stuck with the binary so suck it up and get over yourself.

  346. Gay FTM Man of colour says:

    I continue to find it shocking that gay and lesbian people- and self-described “feminists”- can be blatantly bigoted against trans people, while vehemently denying that their actions are discriminatory and morally bankrupt.

    Rabindranath Tagore said it best…

    “Rabindranath Tagore, Indian philosopher (1861-1941). “He only has freedom who ideally loves freedom himself and is glad to extend it to others. He who cares to have slaves must chain himself to them. He who builds walls to create exclusion for others builds walls across his own freedom. He who distrusts freedom in other s loses his moral right to it.”

    You can phrase it any way you want.

    Excluding women who identify as women from “women’s space” on the basis of anatomical configuration, sex-designation at birth, race, religion, sexual orientation, or disability status is discriminatory, unethical, and oppressive.

    It’s the non-trans women who refuse to acknowledge their non-trans privilege who are functioning in a “patriarchal” fashion.

    Gay men of colour are frequently harassed at gay clubs in the Castro. Gay men with disabilities are targeted for epithets and hostility at certain beaches in Provincetown.

    Shame on all of the transphobic gay men and transphobic Mich Fest women for lacking the grace to admit your bigotry and make amends, while demanding that heterosexual people and men (respectively) do that for you.

    I’m thrilled to avoid your events for the same reason I avoid KKK rallies and Neo-Nazi concerts.

    If you think this is an extreme analogy, you’re not paying attention.

    *thanks to all the luscious and extravagantly fertile minds, including the fabulous trans women here. I’m not a woman, but I’m proud to consider you my sisters, and proud to be your brother. Ditto for the non-trans women on this list who have the guts to challenge their prejudices and defend the rights of women whose right to be treated like human beings is even more imperilled than their own.*

  347. Jules Rosskam says:

    I have never even seen this list before but stumbled upon it while looking for conversations of this very sort. I am a trans-identified filmmaker (thanks to sir real for the shout out about my last film, “transparent”). While I am tempted to add a novella here regarding my own feelings on this issue, that is not my point in posting.

    I am posting cause I am working on a new documentary with Sam Feder (director of, “Boy I Am”) about this very issue….well close. We are making a doc about the struggle of transwomen to be accepted as women, especially focusing on transwomen that identify as lesbians. Some issues we want to address are: dyke/lesbian spaces that do not include trans-women, yet open their arms to trans-men, transwomen who date women and their struggle to find partners and/or friends within the lesbian communities, and the larger issues of how this issues finds space within feminism, as well as what the impact of not affording all the “rights” of womanhood to transwomen are (like, rejection from DV shelters, homeless shelters, MWMF, etc…)

    We are at the very early, research stage, of the film and are looking for possible interviewees. If you truly believe what you are saying, then drop me a line and hopefully we can set up an interview. You can reach me at: jules@julesrosskam.com — also, check out info on the project and others at: http://www.julesrosskam.com

  348. Mike Stranger says:

    Thanks 123 adware

  349. Feanix says:

    Good strip. I think we should see more of Lois, though.

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