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Guest post by Karen Thompson; cross-posted on Listening to Lesbians

Editor’s note: This post by Karen Thompson is in response to an episode of the television program Transparent, which disdainfully and contemptuously parodied the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and the women – mostly lesbians – who called it home for 40 years.

(1) One of the things about festival that is so fucking amazing is the sheer magnitude of female competence. The stages, the sound, the tents, the everything is put together with such care and consciousness and that everything — made out of spit and bandaids — can look like something so polished, so professional, so ON POINT. It’s not that we make nutloaf; it’s that we make nutloaf for THOUSANDS OF WOMEN over OPEN FIRES in all weather. For free.

So the general fucking HINKINESS of the look of the “Idlewild” shit pissed me off because it looked jacked up and like someone threw a camping party in someone’s backyard instead of the sheer magnitude and scale of ability that is demonstrated at fest the minute you walk in the gate. And that lack of attention to that sort of detail (when the slickness and smoothness of everything else on that show is never skimped on), once again ignored female competence and what we can do without males.

Which was one of central liberatory aspects of Festival for me.
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Guest post by Syd Mutschler, cross-posted on Listening to Lesbians.

Editor’s Note: This commentary by Syd Mutschler is originally from June 2014, not long after the Indigo Girls reneged on an agreement to play at MichFest in August of 2014. At the time, they made quite a public show of their sudden boycott of an event that the Indigo Girls as a group and Amy Ray individually had played many times. They gave the organizer of the event very little notice that they were pulling out and did so well after brochures, posters, and other materials had been printed and women had bought tickets expecting to hear them at the Festival. Treating women who had supported them financially and in other ways over many years this badly would be ugly enough, but they undertook this boycott after many years of the exact same controversy, yet it hadn’t stopped them from playing and spending time at the Festival at any time in the past. This was very likely a decision based purely on finances (they were afraid that they would be boycotted, yet they continued to play at a venue with an owner with extremely questionable ethics), not deeply-held beliefs about “inclusivity.”

As the yearly debate about the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival heats up, I have been having a lot of thoughts around boycotts, artists pulling out from the line-up, or artists who have stated they will not play again until the intention of the festival is changed from a gender/sex separate space to only a gender separate space. Artists and trans activists such as Red Durkin have made a lot of statements about why they will not play or why the festival should be boycotted, but I find them to be vague, condescending, emotionally manipulative, and intentionally inflammatory.
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In a recent anti-radical feminist screed, published prominently on several leftist blogs, a trans* activist attempted to equate gender critical analysis with homophobia. This is the latest twist on the conflation of the lesbian and gay rights political movement with the trans* political movement. And it’s the latest indication that it will be lesbians, other women, and girls who are most harmed by that conflation.

Though there are claims that our groups have reason to have a strong political alliance, it’s arguable that Gay, Inc. – the large, well-funded and influential political groups – created this conflation simply to increase funding and reach. There doesn’t seem to have been a period of time where lesbians and gay men were allowed any discussion or input about this decision. But there are obvious reasons to question the unholy alliance.

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Sex Role BoxesI was coercively assigned a sex role at birth. As soon as medical personnel saw that I didn’t have a penis, the process of putting me and keeping me in a very narrowly-defined box began. From then on I was coercively stopped from doing or being things associated with boys and coerced into doing and being things associated with girls. I fought many bitter, painful battles over years of being forced into that box. A handful of those battles I won; most I lost, because the full power of adults was brought to bear to keep me in my proper sex role.

It’s intensely frustrating that in the intervening years experiences like this have continued for girls and boys. But worse, rather than meaningful progress toward simply allowing children to live their lives outside of any box, there is now a very powerful movement that claims that forcing children into the other restrictive sex role box is the solution. The problem, these people claim, is not that the person was coercively assigned a sex role at all, it’s that they were coercively assigned the incorrect sex role, and that (of course!) can be fixed by adopting the other sex role.

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