It has been announced that this year’s Michfest (or Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival) will be the last. And I just don’t know how to feel about it.
For those not in the know, Michfest has a long standing statement of being intended for “womyn-born-womyn,” by which they mean that trans women are not welcome. Since 1991 when Nancy Burkholder was ejected from Michfest after having refused to answer when asked whether she was trans, there has been vocal opposition. Organizers of the event have remained staunch in their discrimination.
Michfest is coming to an end, and I don’t know how to feel. On the one hand, this bastion of TERFdom is ending, and that has to be a good thing. But there has been so much though, heart, and effort put into combating the policy, that it’s somewhat sad to see the festival go before having a chance to be accountable for its actions. Let’s be clear: I wasn’t looking for merely stating that trans women would be permitted, or even welcome on the land. With so much history of exclusion, simply reversing the policy would have done nothing to make me feel safe in going. It would have taken something much more proactive to begin to work towards a place of justice – perhaps a summer where only trans performers were invited to the stage, or something of that ilk. And while I recognize that that was perhaps an overly-lofty dream, there’s no chance of working towards that place now. Its sad for the trans women and our allies who have worked so hard against this, for what feels like nothing, and its sad for Michfest too: the festival didn’t have enough time to unlearn, learn, and better itself.
There’s one thing that I would like to be quite clear about, and that’s that while it may feel like the work that trans women and allies have done to combat this policy of intolerance was for nothing, it certainly hasn’t been. While the policy was never overturned, the very act of calling it out has made space for trans women: either figuratively, showing us that we have cis sisters as well as trans sisters, or quite literally in the form of spaces like Camp Trans. The struggle has had its victories.
And so maybe there’s my answer. The TERFdom is coming to an end, and while it’s not happening in quite the way I would have liked, it will be over, and our trans community has had other victories along the way about which we can be quite pleased.