I decided over the Winter to withdraw my energy from the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.
Since I’ve previously spoken so publicly about why I think trans women should be openly included in the Festival as attendees, performers, workshop presenters, staff and crafts vendors, I think it is important that I speak publicly about my decision to withdraw my energy.
That said, the conflict around Festival moves far beyond the 3,500 workers, attendees and performers and has deeply hurt and affected queer communities and families all over the world. It is my hope, my personal intention, and my unyielding conviction that love, trust and understanding will triumph. And that all people will be considered worthy of love and full acceptance, exactly as they are.
A few weeks ago I was asked to emcee a community event that centers around inclusion of all bodies in a queer context. About a week later I was asked by one of the organizers not to emcee because they were afraid that publically aligning themselves with me would make trans women not feel welcome at the event. “You advocate for people to go to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival” they said to me.
I was surprised and hurt that this happened. An important part of my core value system is that I believe all bodies are good bodies. I feel especially moved to do work that celebrates people whose bodies are maligned in our culture–fat bodies, dis/abled bodies, bodies of color, sex worker bodies, older bodies, trans bodies and non-normative bodies of all permutations. Attacking one body is attacking all bodies. The events I produce I intend to be body positive for all. The writing I publish is meant to empower all bodies. It’s sad to think that anyone thinks that the spaces I’m in or create are not safe for trans womyn because I believe trans womyn should be welcome at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. I believe it and I’m an outspoken proponent for inclusion, both in the intention around organizing as well as performers on stages and brought into the community fully. I think it will only make the Festival stronger and better and more wonderful.
I’ve written about my attendance at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival here before. It’s a wild and wonderful adventure I take every August, where I totally unplug from the outside world and set into the hum of a life in the woods, sleeping in a tent (with many fabulous amenities) and creating something truly one of a kind every year with hundreds of other wyms.
Since I love the Festival and the amazing things it’s done for me in the 12 years since I started attending, I have a vested interest in getting as many Fest-curious wyms to attend as possible. Further, I’m part of a group of past, present and future attendees of the Festival who are working, in love and in direct one-on-one communication with other attendees, to change the intention of the Festival (See #9 below) and we need more, fresh wym power to help us continue the work.
If you’ve always thought about coming, now is the time to turn that thought into a plan. Without your support, it can’t continue. In order to turn folks’ maybes into a yes, I’ve compiled a top eleven list of reasons to attend the Festival.
That said, there is something to be said for the perfect environment to enjoy a cup of tea. At Michfest folks are pretty Goddess-oriented and witchy, and the healing center (the “Womb”) is totally tea-core. There’s a tea for most of what ails you and I have been healed several times by a wham-pow tea.
So this summer I was enjoying a cup of lemon, ginger and honey tea served in a cauldron in the Belly Bowl on hour 36 of persistent rain and cold, and I thought I should film an episode of the Lesbian Tea Basket. I didn’t do it, but on Sunday decided to trek over to the Womb to get some tea to soothe my tender heart. I’m a girl who believes in feeling feelings and I was really experiencing them.
This year, I focused on letting go of my high expectations for doing things and let the Goddess be my scheduler. It made things really beautiful with a lot of opportunity for quiet Shavasana. The glory of a digital camera and my relentless documentation of my queer life has helped these past few years for me to record precious memories, and 2011 Fest for me was not spectacular or earth shattering. It was better than that, a lot of joy in the everydayness of two weeks in a wym-created wilderness civilization. I barely make any of my photos public but I wanted to share a little of what makes this place so special to me.
EVERYDAY GLITTER THE FIRST: SPA TREATMENTS IN THE WOODS
Towards a Spiritual Definition of Wymhood: Working Towards Trans Womyn’s Inclusion at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival
Why, in a space so inherently Womyn-centric, lovingly built from scratch by Wym hands, where we worship the Feminine divine either explicitly or implicitly, are we dependent on a patriarchal medical definition of sex to define who we bring together to celebrate wymhood and all it can be?
It is an incredible effort physically, mentally, financially and emotionally to attend the Festival. The wyms who are drawn to it are drawn for a reason.
I received another good question in my Tumblr ask box from Fuck Yeah Femmes about how it is that I am able to go camping at Michfest and maintain my fabulousness. (Trust that the original question was far more articulate but Tumblr deleted my ask box contents recently.)
That is a really good question. I’ve actually had people reference me before as an example of someone who doesn’t appear to maintain the rugged exterior of a stereotypical camper but who does enjoy it. Like everything in life, I’ve found camping is exponentially better when I do it with the courage to be myself at all times.
This marks the third person I have known personally to pass away in the last three months, all under 46 years old. I am so shocked at how much loss my communities have experienced and grateful for how much love there is going around.
But instead of streaming I grabbed a book and put on some Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. And instead of reading I started daydreaming (this is why I am such a slow reader). I was thinking about what home means, especially what it means to me these days.
I had an incredible experience at the Queer and Trans conference I presented and performed at Swarthmore College last weekend. (More on that later.) There was a workshop given by Mia Mingus and Stacy Milbern that has totally reshaped how I think about home. They have a blog about their experience moving together from different locations in the South to their new shared home in Berkeley, CA. They are two queer disabled diasporic Korean women of color and there is an incredible amount of thought and intention behind their home and their shared values. In addition to an incredible primer on dis/ability justice, what it means to create truly accessible space, crossing the boundaries between different kinds of dis/ability, they also showed us in a truly intimate setting–their home–how they are re-imagining how they and the collective “we” support liberation.
A Festie Virgin friend of mine told me “I was lead to believe this was going to be some sort of non-stop sexy romp in the woods” and I responded “Nothing deters my sexual appetite like the taste of DEET.” Not that sex doesn’t happen in the woods, but when I removed getting laid from whether or not I felt my Festival was fun or a success I had a much better time. This theory is also true for conferences and other high-pressure hook-up queer social gatherings.***
I think it can be really hard to understand that what makes something a good time for one person doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true for other people. This took me so long to internalize. Some people have to get laid to have a good time or do [x,y,z] to have a good time. I would always beat myself up for not enjoying things in a similar way because I absorbed what other people were saying should be my goals for what is a good time.
The Festival is a great space for me to remember this lesson. Some people go to the Festival for the sole purpose of just drinking with their friends all week, some go for the nature, some book up every moment of their day with workshops, concerts and activities. I sometimes get so wrapped up in the idea of the time I think I should be having I become really checked out from the joys and pleasures of the time I am actually having.
The format of the workshop was simple, but ultimately very, very powerful. We all took off our clothes at the beginning and then stood up in a circle looking at one another. We took turns being the center of attention but stayed in the circle formation. The person whose turn it was would tell the group their name, and what they love about their body and what they struggled with. Then the group would go around and each person in turn would give a specific compliment to the person about their body. Then we would move on to the next person.