Friday, August 3, 2007

ct07

I'm leaving for Camp Trans in a few hours. That's exciting. After CT last year- which was the first time I'd ever gone- I kept promising to process online all the stuff I'd been through and figured out and experienced, but I never did. There was too much.

There's this thing- well, okay, background. There's this other thing (and forgive me if you've read about this a bahundred times in a bahundred places already) called the Michigan Women's Music Festival that's been going on since the early seventies, I think? Since the heyday of Janice Raymond's the Transsexual Empire, the pinnacle of second-wave feminism's transphobia and, incidentally, a work so thoroughly discredited that it doesn't even have a descriptive blurb synopsis on Amazon. Basically, her thesis is, transsexual women are men! Invented by science! To undermine the women's movement! Which, y'know, is problematic, but I don't think anybody really listens to her any more.

The problem is, this music festival is the largest women-only space in the country, or the world, or whatever, and is this hugely (historically, at least) bit of lesbian ... I don't want to say herstory, but y'know. They might. They spell woman with a y. Which is fine, just- jesus, never mind about that. The point is that they ae an enormously important cultural touchstone in dyke culture, and about fifteen years ago they booted a trans womans (whose name I forget whether I'm allowed to drop, so I won't) for being trans, and since then have had a "womyn-born-womyn" policy that says, trans women are not women.

Basically CT has this winding history since then that involves Les Feinberg, Riki Ann Wilchins, strap-on.org, and a bunch of other folks. The point is just that it started out as a protest against Michfest's no trans women policy. Dig?

Anyway, okay, whatever. Firstly, fuck Michfest: it's for rich women who have jobs the let 'em have two weeks off in the middle of the summer to go topless in the woods; it's for women who can afford not to work for two weeks; it's for women who can afford the gas or bus or plane tickets to get to Michigan from wherever they are; it's for women who like lesbian music; it's for women who aren't trans; and it claims to be an inclusive space. Lame. Bouge. I'm not invested in protesting Michfest at this point; I kinda don't care about their policy, except in the 'oh yeah, that sure is fucked up' kinda of half-appalled half-interest I have whenever I read about an organization with a fucked up agenda toward trans women.

What I'm invested in with Camp Trans is the empowering space it makes for trans women, regardless of what the protestual context is. (Which is funny- that's what Michfest is supposed to be for all women.) Lina said it better than I think anybody else ever has, as far as I'm concerned; other folks with similar shit where you're not inside THEIR heads with THEIR neuroses, getting perspective on your own shit. All these beautiful queers.

I book music: I'm playing. So are: DJ CPI, MC Redorix, Nervous But Excited, Gage, Kristin Bell Murray, Vanessa Marie Spitzer, Athens Boys' Choir, Miss the Maudlin Geek, Tough Tough Skin, and the Degenerettes. (I'd make those links but I just got all sleepy. Google 'em.) Also, fuckin Lezzies on X are probably going to come spin a set on Friday, if we can get ahold of a pair of CD players and a mixer. I bet we can.

In case that wasn't explicit: That's seven solo performers and two bands, out of eleven acts total, who are trans. And the majority of THOSE, I am stoked to report, are trans women. Not that I have anything against trans men, just that my experience has always been that, in so-called trans-positive spaces, trans men are visibly the majority. (Which, interestingly, is the opposite of how trans folks are portrayed by the media; probably because it's harder to make a trans man look like a freaky crazy- Julia Serrano talks a lot about this in her book Whipping Girl, which we carry at my store, by the way. I think it's her most important contribution, the whole scapegoating of femininity thesis.) One of my favorite things about Camp Trans is the fact that it started as a protest specifically for trans women's rights, not trans rights in general, which in a way acknowledges that trans women and trans men have a lot of issues in common and a lot of issues ... not.

Which is a conversation nobody seems interested in having, I guess because it's hard and I guess because it cracks the unified front we like to put up. Hi, problem that comes up every couple years in feminism!

Anyway, whatever. My point is just that- I know I keep using the word "empowering," but I can't think of another one. For three months after last year's CT, I was high on the possibility of my own life. Thank God for radical queers, is my point.

Well, also: see you in two weeks. They don't have internets in the woods.

5 comments:

Brynn said...

I used to like the term "womyn," but after I thought about it more, I realized it doesn't really change anything. Phonetically, it's still the same as "woman," so it's a change that only benefits the literate and privileged. And trying to explain the change to someone who is illiterate is just confusing. It doesn't make much sense to me. Shouldn't feminism and female empowerment be for all women?

(I followed you here from LJ. I almost always enjoy what you have to say. Can't wait to hear about Camp Trans! Hopefully I can go some day when I'm out of school and have a source of income.)

Pablo said...

I'm glad CT is so much fun but I really think you should brush up on your Michigan Womyn's Music Festival History. First of all, it started years before Janice Raymond wrote her book. It started before anyone involved in creating women's events even heard of transsexuals wanting to be involved in the women's movement. The term "women born women" was used on the first poster for the fest to honor the fact that we came from women, to honor our mothers.

Whether or not you like the spelling womyn, the fact is that it is the actual name of the fest. Like Phish. Not grammatically correct, but the name nevertheless.

I lean towards thinking that transwomen should be included at MWMF, but they are not for a host of reasons. The main reason, given, is that the experience of growing up female is genuinely different from growing up male, no matter how female anyone thought they truely were. The fact is, if someone thinks a child is a boy, they treat him differently, even if he wishes he were treated like a little girl. The social power of gender washes over all humans, even if we wish it weren't so.

And it is the sense of gender entitlement that changes how boys, no matter what they feel inside, are socialized. And it makes a difference between those who were raised male and those who were raised female.

Difference isn't bad. Transsexuals aren't bad for having been raised one way and now function in the world in a different way.

But in the case of MWMF, if is the difference that makes a difference.

One week a year, women who were raised female in this world can get together to do all the things they can do at the fest. Celebrate, learn, work, struggle, play, flirt, freak out. Whatever. It all happens. And the fact that it happens in an environment of women who lived their entire lives as women gives it a different ring, feeling, emotion, sensibility.

Again, I'm not sure if I agree with the policy or not, but I understand it. I've been to MWMF many times, and there is nothing like it in my life's experience. I haven't been since 1991, before Camp Trans, but I have to say I did love living for a week or a month - as a worker - with the glorious chaos and diversity of what little girls can grow up to be.

My biggest question is why is Camp Trans, which does seem like a fun and empowering event, still take place on the borders of MWMF. It makes it's identity dependant of MWMF. That seems limiting to me. Why not, as the owners of MWMF did, buy a plot of land and organize an entire fest of your own, with your own identity, not based on rejection or protest.

Sure, it takes several people working full time year round, and dozens then hundreds working the actual fest,but still. It takes skills of fundraising, organizing, booking talent, workshops, coordinating food services, planning and operating the infrastructure of plumbing, electricity, groundskeeping, , etc. But why not go for it and make an independant, celebratory, big, all inclusive transpalooza?

imogen said...

Pablo- darlin, do you think I haven't heard those arguments before? I'm not interested in having this conversation again, because it's not my job to argue this with every single person who wants to argue it (you: "I am coming from the position of power, so therefore YOU have to explain your shit to ME!"), but what about the fact that being expected to be a boy messed me up? What about the fact that just about everyone I'm close to in my life is a woman, and there's this expectation in michfest's definition of separatism that my being in space with them somehow wrecks that space?

I'm read as a woman everywhere I go (unless I'm read as a transwoman, which happens sometimes, and is its own set of oppressions). Do you really think that male privilege is internalized and then absolutely static? That trans women are actually so stupid and oblivious to the world around us that it wouldn't occur to us that the implications of not being taken for male any more go further than the shallowest surface? There's this straw woman argument about this mythical transwoman who's Really A Man Inside because she doesn't understand how privilege works, who goes around wrecking women's spaces and whom I've never met. She has nothing to do with me.

Further, I think it's adorable how the pro-michfest argument absolutely doesn't take into account the fact that, in this situation, the fest has all the privilege, the trans women don't, and the fest is STOKED to wave it around like a big ol' dick.

I appreciate the corrections you made- spelling, I don't really care about that- but when I was talking about Raymond, I thought I was pretty clear that I was talking about a dominant and outdated perspective that's held currently, not the intention of the beginning of the festival.

Further? I have a friend at fest who told me this year that she doesn't feel like she had the experience of a female childhood. AT ALL. Should we tell her that, well, she was assigned female, so therefore she's wrong and whatever she thinks about her childhood is stupid? Of course not, because she was assigned female and therefore had a female childhood (whether she understands that or not) and is therefore valid and ligitimate, right? The generalization about a female childhood doesn't work unless you want to aggressively apply your own definitions to people, without their consent. The argument about childhoods doesn't work.

I'm going to go back into my girlfriend's bed nook and cry some more about how badly so many folks in the women's/feminist/dyke community misunderstand trans women, and how I'm probably going to be having this conversation over and over for the rest of my life since nobody is interested in actually hearing it. But thanks for your comments.

(Oh! And Camp Trans still takes place outside michfest because we're still not allowed in, even if the official language has gotten vaguer.

Also? Why not buy a plot of land? Because I can't afford to pay back the gas money I borrowed to get out to camp. The assumptions there, also, are frustrating.)

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