An image depicting a computer monitor with two people on it is shown here. The two individuals are both engaged in conversation, with one speaking and the other listening. It is a representation of how communication has changed drastically in the digital age.
Unless you have been a lesbian or a straight woman who enjoys the music, politics and activities associated with women’s culture, you may not have heard of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.
This event has been going on for twenty-eight years during the last full moon of August in a wooded area of northern Michigan. Womyn’s music is the main attraction, featuring the guitar sounds of Holly Near and Cris Williamson and post-riot-grrrl acts such as Bitch and Animal, the Butchies and Le Tigre.
The goal of the event is to create a utopia, where performers are well-paid and given the same amount, regardless of fame. Women can come for free by working in child care, kitchen work or shuttling people on and off the land.
The only males allowed are those who arrive late at night in giant trucks to clean the sludge from the Porta-Janes. Those who attend often experience a deep feeling of safety and peace, as the absence of males creates a lack of threat and allows for a relaxation level that is difficult to achieve in the real world.
Many attendees become emotional due to the weight of the psychic garbage that females have to carry and are grateful for a week of respite. Many people who go become zealous about the festival and get obsessive and protective of the culture that is created.
In 1991, Nancy Jean Burkholder, a transsexual woman, was forced to leave the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (MWMF). Transsexual women, for those unfamiliar with the transgender revolution, are those who were born male and have been fighting against this since.
It can be difficult to access hormones or sex reassignment surgery due to the high cost and lack of insurance coverage. Nancy Jean’s eviction became known in Michigan and caused a large debate over the inclusion of transsexual women, which has gone on for over 10 years.
Some people at the festival believe that trans women are not actually women, but men in dresses trying to ruin the event. Others acknowledge that they are female, but because they were assigned male at birth, they should not be part of the festival.
Trans women and their allies argue that this is discrimination similar to what is seen in other parts of the world, which denies trans women rights to jobs, housing, health care, and more. For over a decade, a small group have set up Camp Trans across the road from the festival in an effort to change the policy that left Nancy Jean without a place to stay 12 years ago.
I was appreciative of the women’s space at the festival and after reading relevant literature, I didn’t see any indication that I wasn’t allowed to be there. I had asked other people and they had said that as long as I considered myself a woman, I was good to go. I arrived early with my friend Laura, and we were the 33rd in line.
We quickly set up camp in the Bread & Roses area and then helped with the shuttle duty. Later that evening, Laura was waiting for her friend from Grand Rapids and we went to the gate. When the bus arrived late, we joined a group at the fire pit.
A couple of women then asked me if I was aware this was a festival for women and I said yes. They then asked if I was a transsexual and I replied that it was none of their business. I then asked Laura to come over as I felt something was off.
The woman asked again if I was a transsexual and I said no. I offered to show them my driver’s license to prove I was a woman but they said they were not comfortable with that. They then said they were empowered to expel any woman for any reason, so I knew arguing would be pointless and I left.
I had been prohibited from leaving the area around the main gate, so Laura took a few festival security guards to my campsite and collected my belongings. It was almost 1 AM when they got me a room at an inn in Hart, Michigan.
Although, it was in a terrible condition – it was wet, cold, and had mildew in the carpets. I was discouraged. The following day, Laura drove me to Grand Rapids where I purchased a ticket to fly back to New England.
I arrived in Worcester, Massachusetts and was taken to Laura’s partner’s house, where my car was. She went back to the festival for a workshop and to inform my friends about what happened to me. Janis Walworth was among the people she told.
I contacted the Gay Community News in Boston and they agreed to publish my editorial, alongside a letter from Laura, on one page of the newspaper. This began the entire controversy.
In 1992, Janis orchestrated a group of people to visit the festival, which included her sister, a male-to-female post operative transsexual, an intersex individual and a butch female.
They disseminated buttons and brochures as well as conducted a survey, the results of which suggested that 72% approved of transsexuals attending the gathering. The other 23% had various objections and Janis then categorized the reasons and collected 24 gender myths.
It is possible to avoid plagiarism by transforming the structure of a text without making alterations to the context or the semantic meaning. This can be accomplished by rearranging the words and phrases while still preserving the original message.
It is no secret that the internet has become an integral part of our lives. We can use it for countless activities, such as staying connected with friends, researching for information, and even for entertainment.
In short, the web has become an essential tool for us to draw on for various purposes.
The efficiency of a business can be increased by monitoring the performance of its employees. Keeping an eye on the output of staff enables the organization to identify areas which require attention and improvement.
This can be done through a variety of techniques, such as providing feedback and conducting regular reviews. Doing so will help the company to ensure that its employees are meeting the necessary standards and that the business is running as efficiently as possible.
In the chance that my plane could crash, I’m choosing to indulge in the small pleasure of Jane magazine. This publication stands out from other women’s magazines, as it conveys a message that women should not feel the need to starve themselves for cheeseburgers and that gay people should be respected.
One article even features an actor from That ’70s Show providing advice to young women with love issues.
Wesleyan University has brought the first dorm to the United States which does not hold the assumption of a student’s gender, for those who do not identify as either male or female.
Currently, I am soaring through the sky towards a vast swath of national forest filled with individuals who do not assign themselves to the binary of male or female, as well as a host of people whose identities fall within the transgender range. But, before our landing in Grand Rapids, here is a concise glossary to keep in mind.
A QUICK REFERENCE TO GENDER IDENTITY VOCABULARY
Genderqueer: People who could identify as both male and female or may identify as one gender at times and another gender at other times, or could choose not to be associated with any gender at all. They may or may not be taking hormones or having any form of surgery.
Transsexual: (1) An individual who deeply desires to live as the opposite gender and may implement this through hormone therapy and/or surgery. (2) A person who has a conviction that their biological gender is not the one they should have been born as.
Trans person of male presentation: An individual who was assigned female at birth, but identifies as male. Also commonly referred to as a trannyboy, if the person is younger.
Trans woman: A person who has undergone a transition from male to female.
Not Post-Op: Has not gone through the procedure of sex reassignment surgery.
Post Operation: Undergone a change in gender through surgical means.
Non-op: Does not plan on undergoing sex reassignment surgery.
Heading to Camp Trans, which has a long history of periodic disagreement with the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival nearby, I was reminded of the inception of the protest camp in the years after Nancy Jean’s eviction.
In the past four years, there has been a substantial increase in people self-identifying as trans. This has caused the purpose of the trans struggle to move away from the original intention of gaining access to women-only and lesbian spaces.
Trans men have been accepted by dyke communities, yet acceptance of trans women, even lesbian trans women, is not as widespread. This influx of trans men and lesbian support has made the attendance at Camp Trans so high that it had to be relocated to a forest-lined field between the music festival and a nudist camp.
I’ve never been to Camp Trans, though I stopped attending MWMF a few years ago due to the exclusion of trans women. When I arrive at the airport, I am collected by a girl named Ana Jae, who is eager to leave the woods.
She tells me that the bugs are swarming and it is particularly uncomfortable to pee in the woods while they are flying around. Furthermore, Ana is too traumatized to use the Porta-Potties because of the horror movie Sleepaway Camp II.
I am eager to hear about the atmosphere at Camp Trans, and Ana confirms that there are far more trans men than women, and she speaks about the devaluing of femininity among the younger queer scene. We have a little drama of our own when we get lost on the way back to the woods, driving through various Michigan townships for hours.
Finally, we pass a gas station with a sign that says “WELCOME WOMYN” and some women loading beer into their cars, and we know we are on the right track.
We pass the festival parking lot, and note that Camp Trans is not set up at the entrance. Instead, it has become a free alternative to the festival, which some MWMF attendees mistake for a “happy, friendly, separate-but-equal campsite.”
This has been infuriating to the trans women who rely on Camp Trans as a site of protest, which is why Sadie Crabtree, a trans woman and activist from DC, has taken a leadership role this year. She and the other organizers are committed to bringing the focus of Camp Trans back to the trans women it was originally created to serve.
When people come to Camp Trans – either to stay or on a day pass from the festival – they must stop at the welcome tent and check in.
Those attending the MWMF who arrive tonight must also pay a $3 fee. Behind a table fashioned from boards and sawhorse sits two Camp Trans welcomers, who help visitors adjust to their new surroundings.
As with the main festival, everyone is expected to help out. Although the camp is much smaller than the music festival – the MWMF parking lot is bigger than all of Camp Trans – it still takes work to keep it going.
The kitchen tent is filled with pots and pans and water jugs, and the performance area is adorned with Christmas lights, which are beginning to glow as the sun sets. There is also a medic tent and an area for “advocates”, who wear armbands and are responsible for addressing questions, hearing grievances and resolving conflicts.
At the entrance, I filled out a petition asking for the termination of the festival’s womyn-born-womyn policy. Upon completion, I was then given a welcome note to Camp Trans.
At Camp Trans 2003, we invite you to join us in our celebration of trans lives and identities. Here, you will find a safe, supportive and affirming environment in which to explore and express your unique identity. We strive to create a space where everyone can feel respected and accepted for who they are. Come join us and be part of the celebration!
Every year, Camp Trans hosts a protest against the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival’s decision to exclude transsexual women from attending.
The “womyn-born-womyn” policy put in place by the MWMF serves as a transphobic standard for other women-only spaces in the US, and ultimately, creates a space for discrimination against trans women to be socially accepted.
For those trans women who are regularly denied assistance from domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers, this policy could mean the difference between life and death.
A few poster boards are adorned with Post-it notes that describe the day’s workshops and meetings; another is filled with colorful notes inviting people to love in the woods. One laments the silence of an unused voice, and another is searching for couples to join in a Floridian retirement roleplay.
Those interested can respond by leaving messages in designated envelopes. There are also zines for sale, silkscreened patches with “Camp Trans Supporter” in bold letters, buttons that proclaim “I ♥ Camp Trans,” T-shirts that state “Not gay as in happy but queer as in fuck you,” and a notebook titled “Letters to Lisa Vogel.”
Lisa Vogel is the one and only leader of the SS Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. She alone wrote the policy, and only she has the power to change it. I heard many stories this weekend, mainly concerning her.
One rumor claimed that Vogel offered Camp Trans an amount of cash ranging from $7,500 to $75,000 to set up their own event, which is very unlikely as her festival is struggling financially.
Another rumor said that trans women would be allowed into the festival over Vogel’s dead body, similar to Lauryn Hill’s quote about not wanting white kids to buy her records. It’s unclear what is true.
Vogel is known for not speaking out on the issue, and has not attempted to negotiate with Camp Trans. In response to prior protests, she has just repeated the policy, which has now been taken off all MWMF web pages.
It is unlikely that this means trans women are now accepted; instead, it is likely that the festival producers are trying to avoid the controversy, which includes not just a boycott of the festival, but also of the performers.
In this collection of “Letters to Lisa Vogel,” we can find some excerpts.
I have a fondness for the festival and wish it to be a place where all can feel secure. This can be achieved, and everyone would benefit from it. We, as feminists, must not succumb to becoming like our oppressors.
Having a transpositive atmosphere will only better the festival experience for everyone. There are plenty of resources to learn how to accomplish this.
I have attended a wide range of trans-inclusive happenings in my hometown, including a women’s bathhouse. I feel safe among trans women and know many other people my age who feel the same.
Camping is taking place behind the treeline and has been divided into three sections: the loud and rowdy with people becoming intoxicated and intimate near tents; the loud and sober with people attached to trees and making a lot of noise; and the quiet and sober area for sleepers. I’m situated in the middle of a sand patch being used for AA meetings.
Beside me is an old camper van with a fridge and sink, painted in a checkerboard design resembling Fast Times at Ridgemont High, wherein my friend Chris is smoking marijuana and enraging the substance-free campers.
He is with a woman called Mountain, who comes from a commune in Oregon that has included transgender women into their home. Mountain usually visits Michigan, but this year she is at Camp Trans in solidarity.
This is not a huge issue, as the women are living life as usual, tending their organic garden and keeping track of their lunar calendars.
People are hurrying around, full of enthusiasm and anticipation. The big dance and performance is happening tonight and the number of people on the grounds will increase due to the festival-goers.
Camp Trans’s population, which is usually around seventy-five, will soar to over a hundred. This is minuscule compared to the eight thousand women present in the nearby woods. Sadie is running around in a panic; she has an amiable face with glistening eyes and short hair.
Her all-black clothing gives her the appearance of being in a military uniform, especially with the large black women-symbol-raised-fist tattoo on her shoulder.
She is still troubled by the events from the sex party the night before and has now received a note proposing a Camp Trans workshop to take place at the festival, a place where trans women are not allowed.
Sadie can sense that the control has slipped out of her hands and is hurt by the thought of a Camp Trans event occurring somewhere that trans women can’t go. As she needs a drink, Sadie departs with tears in her eyes.
The individual in question is Sadie Crabtree.
At Camp Trans, some festival goers were confused about its purpose and didn’t regard it as a protest. Additionally, some dyke communities fetishize FTMs which render trans women invisible.
To tackle these issues, organizers had a mission statement on materials, gave suggested talking points, and held discussions about trans women’s experiences. Advocates were also appointed to listen to concerns and plan solutions.
Moreover, particular zones were declared wristband-free to allow a safe space for trans women and to make people think more critically about the implications of attending a transphobic event. When asked, organizers offered scissors as a symbol of choice.
At MWMF, one of the regulations prohibits male voices on the property, meaning no one is allowed to blast Michael Jackson music and start performing the moonwalk. This rule has been broken, or rather bent, with the emergence of drag kings–female performers who dress up as male characters, often satirizing and venerating masculinity through lip syncs.
When the Florida drag king troupe House of Ma took to a side stage during a talent show, the audience was alerted that they would be hearing a male voice. Women who were offended by this quickly left the area. This is not a problem at Camp Trans, so the music is more diverse and varied.
The area that serves as the stage and dance floor is filled with Dr. Dre and the Gossip, Motorhead and Peeches, Billy Idol, Northern States, Ludicris, and Fannypack. At the gathering, Benjamin, a genderqueer boy, notices how beautiful everyone is.
Most of the people are in their late teens and twenties, donning silver plastic pants and maribou-trimmed spandex, crinolines and pink ruffled tuxedo shirts, neon orange nighties, and push-up bras.
Everyone is excited to be celebrating and challenging the gender binary, to be partying for a purpose, and to be part of a revolution of attractive gender-ambiguous people. I contemplate how, in the process of dismantling gender identity, sexual preference might become irrelevant.
If you are a traditional lesbian, you may find yourself attracted to trans women, and dykes tend to be drawn to trans men. This could be a good time to embrace your bisexuality and attraction to non-trans men.
Everyone here is quite attractive, and I must admit that I’m quite trampy in that I am drawn to almost everyone.
Jess, the organizer, begins Showtime with a warning to the crowd–a mix of Camp Transers and festie-goers–about the proper behavior that is necessary to be respectful in a space where there is an abundance of trans people.
This year, a lesson was given because last year’s visitors were unaware of how to act properly, which caused a lot of trans women to be offended. Jess stressed that it is important not to guess someone’s pronoun and to not ask offensive questions regarding someone’s body.
Additionally, there is a third pronoun, “ze,” which is being promoted by genderqueers. Some people are even suggesting to stop using pronouns altogether and to be more creative when referring to them.
An example of this was when the celebrity Susan Powter visited Camp Trans last year and was greeted by an advocate named J. J. Bitch. Powter was thrilled with the name and even wanted to take it as her own, exclaiming “J. J. Bitch! I love that name! I want that name! I’m J. J. Bitch!” J. J. Bitch was really taken aback but also very pleased as advocate work can be quite draining and this was a great boost.
The skits performed at the festival portrayed the injustice and trauma faced by trans women. The audience was gathered in the dirt, and the Fat-tastics performed an inspiring cheer to promote fat power.
Moreover, a duo of genderqueers presented a ballet. Nomy Lamm sang heartbreaking songs with an accompaniment of a honking accordion. The atmosphere was similar to a medieval village on a pagan holiday.
Furthermore, Benjamin lip-synched with a CD that kept skipping. Lastly, Julia Serano, a trans woman spoken-word poet, performed a piece about her relationship with her girlfriend and another entitled “Cocky”.
I may come off as a bit arrogant,
but that is only because I’m done apologizing
for the body I have.
I am finished being used as a human sacrifice
to make up for other people’s gender issues.
Some women have penises,
some men don’t,
and everyone else will just have to accept it.
All of Julia’s audience rose to their feet, shaking off dirt and brushing away any crickets they had on their chests. They cheered and hollered in support as the poet left the “stage” and embraced her partner and Sadie.
An examination of the influential writings of Julia Serano
The efforts of Camp Trans are largely concentrated on persuading the MWMF participants that trans-women are not planning on exhibiting their genitals or being violent to other women.
To my knowledge, I have never encountered a trans woman who has been aggressive to another female or has shown her private parts in public. However, I understand that I have to be sensitive to their worries in order to gain their confidence. To use an analogy, it’s like a Middle Eastern person having to reassure everyone on an airplane that they are not going to take control of it before they can get on.
Conversing with many attendees of the festival, I was disheartened to observe the frequent focus on ‘the penis.’ Everyone was discussing the importance of penises being on the land without giving much consideration to the fact that these penises are connected to female bodies.
As a trans female, I have had a lot of internal struggles concerning my penis and gender identity. After a period of self-reflection, I have been able to accept my penis as a mere body part, not a sign of male superiority. I am perplexed as to why many people claiming to be feminists are so intent on propagating the idea that men’s power is based on the phallus.
It was remarkable to have people at the MWMF festival discussing their anxiety that trans women would bring male energy to the grounds, and then in the following moment, confessing that they never suspected I had been born a male.
It deeply upset me to see that some women would want to exclude me (a woman) from spaces intended for women, as if my body would bring up bad memories for abuse survivors. This idea fails to recognize the constant harassment and violence that trans women are subject to.
I have personally experienced verbal and physical abuse from men simply because of who I am, and I have also been raped by men. It is a horrible violation of my identity to have been forced to live as a boy when I did not want to. Every trans woman has endured trauma, and the term ‘womyn-born-womyn’ is a reminder of this for me.
I am totally drained, unable to make it to the end of the show. Using my flashlight, I cautiously maneuver through the overgrown and rough ground, with locusts scurrying away from my shoes.
My tent may be contaminated. Earlier, I had sprayed an abundance of insect repellent on my body, scared of getting the West Nile Virus. I then had to hastily open the tent and go out, in order to avoid suffocation.
The tent has aired a bit, but still retains its chemical odor. I consume a lot of valerian, an herbal form of valium, and get into my sleeping bag. The dance party is on again. I can hear the shrieks of the dancers over the thump of Outkast and then I drift off to sleep.
Before departing civilization, I made sure to brew a two-liter container of coffee for when I awoke. The sun had already begun to beat down on my tent as I scrambled into some jeans, grabbed my toothbrush and stepped out into the blazing sunlight.
I was the only camper who chose to camp in front of the trees, where ticks, spiders, mice, and other potentially harmful creatures could be found, instead of in the shade behind them. My tent was set up in the direct sun, which wasn’t the smartest decision.
Campers are quickly hopping in their cars and journeying to the lake, which is a typical part of the “Camp Trans Experience”. There was a fat caucus at the lake yesterday and an Attention Deficit Disorder caucus, though not everyone managed to stay focused.
I am tempted to accompany them and swim, but I am fearful of skipping out on something important. The atmosphere at Camp Trans is highly charged, like the arid terrain we are standing on. I am certain something interesting will occur and I don’t want to miss out on it.
At the welcome tent, two festival workers show up. One of them is a femme girl with curly red hair, a cowboy hat, and glamorous sunglasses, and the other one is a butch girl with thick horn rims and a baseball hat.
They carry a box of zines which contain the various opinions of the women working in the festival. The femme girl passes it off to the welcome worker, saying something along the lines of “It’s our effort at having some dialogue”. It seemed that she was a bit scared and apprehensive.
Observing this, I had a few thoughts: the festival workers were brave to bring over the box of opinions, most of which were likely already known to Camp Trans campers, and I thought that a conflict might arise and their good intentions would be overlooked.
The two festival workers then went to the side, leaned onto a parked car, lit cigarettes, and just stayed there. I put my zine in my back pocket and headed off to a tent for the morning meeting.
Each morning, a collective excitement builds amongst the crowd attending the meeting, as word of the zine or the actual zine is spread. People are mesmerized by the content they are reading, and Simon Strikeback, an organizer of Camp Trans, facilitates the gathering.
He has blond curls and looks like he has been playing in the dirt, in a fun way. He opens the floor to a discussion on the zine and announces other events, such as a workshop on feminism and the gender binary.
A dreadlocked girl with facial piercings offers to sell anarchist T-shirts and is looking for someone to hitchhike with her to Mexico for an antiglobalization rally. Someone else displays a Camp Trans image, designed by the cartoonist Ariel Schrag, and asks for help with screen printing T-shirts.
A press member, wearing a “PRESS” sticker, announces her attendance at the festival. As a way of showing good faith, the sticker was requested by Sadie, so that everyone is aware of the press and their stories do not include anyone without their consent.
To help alleviate suspicious looks, the press member volunteers to help clean up breakfast at the kitchen tent.
At the kitchen tent, one can find a variety of food items. All of the ingredients are fresh and prepared in a timely manner. The staff is very friendly and willing to assist you with any questions or requests you may have. The atmosphere is inviting and the food is always delicious.
The sun is bearing down and all there is to do is wait for the water. Various pans are covered in muck and there is a bucket of beets that no one knows what to do with, so I move it out of the sun. Another bucket is full of beans, possibly for a chili dinner.
I’m asked to go inside the tent and sort through the vegetables, mostly donated from a co-op. There is a plastic bag of basil where I take the top leaves that are still green and discard the ones that are dried out or yellowing.
We then find a mouse inside a beet box and I take it and the box outside. We look for mouse droppings and I decide not to eat any of the food there. I have energy bars, tuna, and canned chili so I don’t have to risk getting sick. I listen to a camper’s advice to drink a lot of water and then I go relax.
I am so glad I didn’t go to the lake. Instead, we all gathered together in a secluded clearing near my campsite. It was a group of Camp Trans campers and the two festival employees who brought the box of zines.
The zine was titled Manual Transmission and it was not very well-received. It contained the festival workers’ views on the trans-inclusion issue. There was a suggestion to set the box on fire that night, like a traditional book burning. Ana Jae was ready to lead the conversation, with Benjamin next to her, keeping track of those who wanted to talk so everyone got a chance.
Extracts from Manual Transmission:
Let’s be clear: womyn born womyn is not about defining something. It is about recognizing the unique experience of women whose life has been lived as such and who still live as women. This is not an attempt at defining anyone, but rather, acknowledging a shared experience.
Despite the greater numbers of such women, they still deserve to take separate space. We must not act in a patronizing way, assuming that women’s shelters cannot make their own decisions and policies.
To ignore the need of women who do not want to see a penis is unacceptable. Even unwanted dicks are not useless signifiers. You who I love and call my community of political bandits may not have the same experience as me, and claiming it as your own does not make it so, it makes it theft.
Ana Jae declares, “This is complete nonsense.” The general sentiment to the zine, she observes, is “We were already aware of this” and “How could you introduce such hurtful ideas into this place we are attempting to preserve free from such views.” People then take their turns voicing their opinions.
Anarchist Girl, a hitchhiker, expresses her discontent with the defense of the $350 entrance fee for the MWMF, deeming it classist.
Simon is disheartened, eager to have a discourse on changing the policy, and has had enough of the bickering about male and female anatomy.
The person seated to my left admitted that while the festival crew had benevolent motives, the outcome of their efforts was not up to their expectations.
The Festie Workers state that, while they had specified no submissions degrading or attacking trans people should be printed, they had to hurry up and, thus, did not read all the writings. They regret the discord their zine has caused, however, they feel it was not appropriate to censor anyone’s opinions, as it is difficult to decide what is suitable and what is not.
Sadie considers it her duty as an activist to promulgate the notion that her opinions are the proper ones; she only interacts with those who concur and are willing to advance the cause.
Reminders should be issued on a regular basis to all Festie Workers to keep them mindful of their positive intentions.
The girl in the wheelchair to my right says she continually experiences pain caused by people who are trying to be kind.
The Femme Festie Worker wept, uncertain of what to do in light of the circumstances.
The speaker in the Girl I Can’t See states that it is essential for everyone to educate themselves on trans issues.
The Girl With the Camouflage Bandanna understands the difficulty of the educational journey and encourages people to continue their studies despite the hardship.
Fear pervades the atmosphere, as people worry about their capacity to unknowingly cause harm or offend even when they are attempting to be helpful. Abruptly, the weather shifts and rain begins to pour, the sky illuminated by lightning. I race to my tent to protect it from the downpour, and when I return to the circle, the process is finished. I chat with a friend I know from coming here in previous years; she was reprimanded for taking a festival van to Camp Trans on a date, so this time she’s camping amongst the trees. I grab a notebook from my tent, which was hot and had a sulfur smell, and then sit down in an abandoned chair to write some notes.
Geyl Forcewind, an anarchic punk rock trans woman, had a radiating presence. She was wearing a tattered T-shirt with a red anarchy sign sewn into it and her combat boots were covered with duct tape.
Her teasing demeanor was a perfect fit for my curious exploration of the growing number of trans men and trannyboys, and the small number of trans women and genderqueers who embrace femininity. I declared my admiration for girls and for girlness, and although I have a trans male partner, I wish there were more females among the genderqueer population.
The trans revolution is currently dominated by male faces. Geyl then commented on Riot grrrl’s contributions to the stigmatization of lesbians, and how that has made it easier for people to become genderqueer. Pam, a trans woman who had been playing an acoustic guitar in the woods behind us, joined the conversation.
PAM: Trans women are subjected to a higher level of mistreatment in our society.
It’s definitely true that a lot of potential transgender women don’t come out due to the fact that it can be harder for them to present as female in general society, and the amount of negativity they would receive for it.
GEYL: Being a female is not as ‘cool’ as being a male. I make a point to actively invite more women.
PAM: If you’re a woman, then something must be wrong with you.
GEYL: When I first opened up about my identity, I was really trying to present masculinely.
MICHELLE: I had the same experience when I first revealed my identity. It felt like being masculine was the cooler, tougher, and safer choice.
Pam embodies the spirit of the near music festival–with her smudged eyeliner, long brown hair, and a bandana tied around her forehead, plus an acoustic guitar in tow.
She is a construction worker, which is seen as a very empowering job for women. After revealing her trans identity, Pam’s co-worker threatened to push her off the tall building they were working on. When she raised the issue, her supervisor stated, “You should anticipate that type of thing.” Eventually, she was discharged from the job, due to “tardiness.”
PAM: If I watch Jerry Springer, I’d rather not be associated with it.
GEYL: All the trans women featured on that show are not truly trans. It’s a mockery.
PAM: I believe Jerry is a tranny chaser. I believe he is bitter and wants to take out his frustrations on the trans community.
We soon discovered that our seats were located in the area designated for the “Feminism and the Gender Binary” workshop.
GEYL: I shall challenge the two-gender system. If anyone mentions Judith Butler, I shall give them a punch.
A rally was held in a public square, where a large number of people gathered to express their opinions and concerns. The event was well-attended, with attendees from all backgrounds and ages present.
Speeches were given, with passionate ideas shared and discussed. It was an opportunity for members of the public to unite and make their voices heard.
Mountain is up on the mic again and she’s saying that if her feminist commune can accept trans women, anyone should be able to.
She states that she would die if she didn’t go to the festival every year, but since she didn’t go, she’s still alive. Sadie is encouraging everyone to fight against the policy. Even though there’s a slim chance that MWMF will make a change, it’s unlikely, considering the same trans exclusionary policy was put in place when Camp Trans protested the festival.
Lisa Vogel was seen in the worker area and was said to be angry and view this as a class and age conflict. The women attending the festival view her as a saint because of the safe space she’s created, and it’s taken a lot of effort from her and other feminists, who argue that no one knows how hard they fought for this.
The festival’s music carries through the air and is a reminder of how much work went into creating it. Lisa Vogel is a hardworking woman and it is clear she is not going to yield easily.
Emily is trying to persuade the festival women to change their policy. She speaks of her own girlhood and how it was powerful to be recognised for who she was. A young friend of hers once wished she would get a sex change operation so she could attend her slumber party. Anna then takes the microphone to talk to the lesbians.
She talks of how they date trans men but then try to invalidate their masculinity when they don’t want to be mistaken as a straight girl. She then speaks of how the lesbian community fetishises trans men but remains unwelcoming to trans women.
The speaker then reflects on how difficult it has been for her to explain her boyfriend’s transition to others. She sees a couple of Gainsborough Blue Boys, who seem to be in a wiggy tennis outfit, making out with paper bags concealing beers.
The speaker then talks to Anna, saying how she was once a tranny-dating lesbian and how her dyke friends talk badly about trans women. Anna then gives her contact information and her boyfriend tells her that being interviewed is her favorite thing. She then walks away, her bag glinting in the night.
The dancing has resumed and I find Carolyn, a Brooklyn based author and trans woman, on the sidelines. She appears to have invented her own kind of shower by collecting rainwater and tying together tree branches.
When I see Carolyn she is always impeccably groomed and I feel embarrassed about my own lack of cleanliness. I have been using a chemical gauze pad called a Swash cloth to wipe away the grime before I sleep, but it’s not really enough.
Carolyn humbly confesses that others have noticed her hygiene in spite of not showering for four days, “I’m just lucky,” she says.
In the light so bright it turns them into silhouettes, two people – of any gender – were spinning around on the makeshift dance floor performing a routine from the movie Dirty Dancing. Someone held up a sign reading “Nobody puts baby in a corner” and the audience roared.
I was a moody deathrock when the film came out, and I had no idea what they were talking about. I used to make fun of my sister for loving it, but it was beautiful seeing the two silhouettes coming together under the light. I was too emotional for dancing, so I left for my tent.
On my way, I saw a trans man straddling the girl in the green dress’ lap, two making out on the dance floor, and many bootys shook.
Chris was upset that I had disappeared when he asked me to dance. We were sitting on his patio, and he was making coffee on his camp stove, but I had to promise not to tell anyone about it, since he was nearly out of gas.
He discussed his early confusion about Camp Trans and how he thought it was about trans men attempting to get into the women’s festival, which he wasn’t in favor of. He laughed and said, “You gain a few privileges, you lose a few; go bemoan your misfortune on your own terms and then move on.”
When he understood that it was about offering trans women particular women-only benefits, he was completely on board. He expressed how relaxed he felt, commenting that “My tree keeps getting closer,” referring to the tree he uses as a restroom.
I suppose he had seen Sleepaway Camp II and was scared of the portos, or he was lazy, or he simply felt safe as a transgender person to relieve himself in the wilderness without fear.
Three days after returning from Camp Trans, Carolyn, from the Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, forwarded an excerpted email.
The Transgender Community has been rocked by three shootings over the past week, two of which have resulted in the deaths of the victims.
On August 16th, Elvys Perez (known as Bella Evangelista) was slain at the intersection of Arkansas Avenue and Allison Street in Northwest Washington. Antoine Jacobs was arrested on the spot and has been charged with First Degree Murder while Armed.
The Metropolitan Police Department has classified this case as a suspected Hate/Bias Motivated Crime due to Gender Identity.
Later that week, on the evening of August 20th, a black Male-to-Female Transgender individual was found near 3rd and I Streets, N.W. with gunshot wounds. They were taken to a nearby hospital, where they are in serious condition. This case has been labeled an Assault with Intent to Kill.
On the early morning of August 21st, officers from the Seventh District found the body of a black Male-to-Female Transgender individual at 2nd Street and Malcolm X Avenue, S.E. They were unconscious and had wounds of unknown origin and, as there were no signs of life, D.C. Fire/EMS did not transport them.
As I observe, Camp Trans is slowly coming to a close. Automobiles are leaving the parking lot, located on the same grounds everyone has been living in. Waves and farewell hugs are exchanged.
During the planning meeting of Camp Trans 2004, which is held beneath a tent, people have the chance to express their opinions on the performance of the gathering and what needs to be improved upon for the next time.
The focus on trans women’s needs and overturning the policy was a success. However, there is an awareness of the lack of diversity. Geyl proposes travel scholarships for those who are unable to attend due to financial reasons.
People are satisfied with trans women being in charge, the absence of rain and the accountability of the women who are organizing. In addition, Camp Trans was able to make a profit of $500, even with the portos asking for change. Cleaning the portos cost $80 a week.
At the welcome tent, two women from Utah, who looked to be in their fifties, had wandered in. It seemed as though they had come with an open mind to find out what all the fuss was about.
Questions about transsexuals and their body parts were asked, with the common concern being that many women have suffered from abuse by men with penises and it may not be fair to make them witness one at the retreat.
In response, I expressed that women should not take out the trauma they have experienced on trans women, who may have also gone through similar ordeals, and that trans women have experienced difficult girlhoods just like any other girl. As I finished, I felt exhausted and frustrated, yet this was not my life.
We must all do our part in taking apart Camp Trans. Apprehensive of the tents and huts that require dismantling, I begin by untying the bright plastic ribbons that have been entwined, for some unclear reason, around an aging cage that, oddly, contains a short apple tree. Speculation suggests there may be a hornet nest in its boughs.
The field had been restricted off all week with the same neon plastic to keep everyone away from a hornet nest. This, too, is now being taken down. Grabbing a garbage sack, I go around the land, picking up scraps.
What makes the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival so remarkable is the land it is held on. The trees are tall and soothing; the grass is lush and intertwining pathways; and the atmosphere is fresh – it’s the real thing.
The female patrons appreciate and look after the environment as if it were living, which it is. I try to carry this same attitude to dismantling Camp Trans, yet I don’t feel linked to this modest tract of national forest.
Maybe if this event goes on here for twenty-eight years, it will take on the unique character and familiarity that inhabits the woodlands across the street. I grab the torn corner of a Chex Mix bag from the floor, some empty water containers, pieces of toilet paper, shreds of a garbage sack that blew off one of the Fat-tastics’ pom-poms.
I also found tiki torches that had been used to lead nighttime goers to the Porta-Potties all week. I leave behind for decomposition into the land some carrots, some tofu dogs, and some onion skins. Additionally, there are bullet shells and ruined clay pigeons spread throughout the weeds, left behind by whomever was there last.
At the portos, I had imagined a punk-rock campsite made of tarps with anti-police graffiti. To my surprise, Chris popped his head out and asked if I knew there was a shower there. It was a little pump with a hose that sprayed a fine mist when you clicked a switch.
Later, I assisted Geyl and Cassidy in taking it down, and had a great time spraying myself with the leftover water. I heard the story of Blane, the man who rented the portos, while I pulled stakes and untangled ropes.
Blane owned five hundred acres of land, where he raised beefalo. He fed them corn grown from compost made from the slurry in the Porta-Potties, which would eventually be distributed in a nearby cornfield. It was incredible, yet slightly sickening.
Geyl points to the sky, noting the presence of some large birds of prey circling overhead. Searching for a place to sit and read, I find that the areas of shade are either full of creepy daddy longlegs or occupied by intimidating groups of campers.
A girl is doing yoga in a patch of weeds, her body becoming visible as she moves. Meanwhile, a car opens up and people are loading their stuff. X’s “White Girl” is playing, but is soon replaced by the sound of blaring Tiffany.
I eventually settle down in what is left of the welcome station, but the heat, mosquitos, and the loud sex noises emanating from the woods make it difficult to focus on my reading.
I was given a lift to Hart by a young man named Billy. Every day he makes a few trips in his big red truck, disposing of waste, redeeming bottles and replenishing his water supply. It is remarkable that he alone has to carry out this task, yet he remains stoic and determined.
The back of his vehicle has become a complete disaster, filled with spilled liquor and decaying produce, and he has been living in it for the past seven months while journeying across the country.
Many of the participants of Camp Trans are part of a culture of travel and youthful adventure, and there are a number of them who are not heading back home from here but instead going off to states like New York and Chicago.
Tennessee is another destination for some, where a similar gathering is taking place on a piece of land owned by a group of Pagan gay people, known as the radical faeries.
Billy and I go to a gas station and drop off bags of broken glass and rotten vegetables, and he grabs a bottle of whiskey, finishes what was left and throws the empty bottle in the dumpster.
He then takes me to a Mobil station so that I can make a call to my boyfriend and buy some snacks. After a few days of bland energy bars, canned tuna and chili, I find even the most strange snacks appetizing.
I end up purchasing a large bottle of coke, some Pop-Tarts and a bag of Mustard and Onion “Coney” Chips, which actually taste like hot dogs.
Dave’s Party Store is the next stop, where a friendly Pauley Shore-ish man exchanges a trash bag of sludgy bottles for $25 and a white guy with a redneck accent talks to the cashier in deep ebonics, saying he was joining a traveling carnival.
“That would be a great fit for you,” the woman remarks dryly. As we drive away, listening to Lil’ Kim, we pass by the music festival, its parking lot full of cars, and Blane the Porta-Pottie guy, sucking out the gunk from the portos before loading the empty toilets onto his truck and driving away.
I open a can of vegetarian chili and head to Chris’s van where I find him and Andrew, a twenty-year-old transgender man, smoking pot.
Geyl shared Andrew’s story with me last night at the dance, about how he discovered he was trans after watching the movie Boys Don’t Cry and its Oscar-winning actress Hillary Swank’s portrayal of Brandon Teena, who was raped and murdered when his friends found out the truth.
Andrew arrived at Camp Trans after getting a ride from some anti-Camp Trans ladies who had come to the festival and decided to stay longer. He quickly arranged to hitch a lift home with Chris, who was planning to explore the country in his van for a few more months.
Andrew has a buzz cut, eyes which alternate between blue and green, and a tenderly stroking jaw. He tells us about the wrestling match last night and how someone asked him if they could kiss him, which didn’t bother him at all.
His girlfriend, who is on her own holiday, is fine with the heightened sexual atmosphere of queer events and encourages him to not be monogamous. Andrew is content with the kisses and wrestling, and can’t wait to get back to Lansing and see his girlfriend.
Going on an adventure is a thrilling experience that involves the discovery of something new. It can be a physical exploration of an unknown place or a mental exploration of a new concept.
Whatever it may be, adventure involves an element of risk and a sense of anticipation. It is an opportunity to break away from the mundane and experience something different. Adventure can provide a sense of accomplishment, a sense of purpose, and a new perspective on life.
Jess is expressing her displeasure that on the final night of Camp Trans, the only people remaining are the core organizers, a few procrastinators, Chris, and herself. I am going to embark on an adventure that is not approved of by the camp.
Even though I am not really “sneaking” in, Camp Trans’s policy is to not allow campers to enter the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. Geyl is given a bracelet from a lady who tearfully said “you deserve to be in there” yet she does not want to risk it, so Kelly with her “King Shit of Fuck Mountain” T-shirt is given the bracelet.
Jess, wearing a black slip and a fake blue rose in her orange bob, explains that last year they were blamed for allowing the campers to sneak in, as the food consumption was high. She believes they should have just accepted that people were eating a lot.
Thus far, this year, no one has attempted to sneak over, as our plan is to just take a leisurely stroll and maybe find the party at “the dump.” And with that, off we go.
Come and join us at the Festival! Here, you can discover all sorts of amazing experiences. You can explore, indulge in exciting activities, and take part in unique events. Whether you’re a first-time attendee or a seasoned visitor, you can look forward to a memorable and enjoyable experience.
The Security Gals wearing the fashionable orange vests are present to address queries, maintain an orderly environment, and guarantee safety.
Sadly, it has also become a regular task of theirs to handle the girls who attempt to enter the Festival without a ticket. It would be great if you could assist with their effort to make sure everyone buys an entry pass for the festival.
We sneakily enter the festival perimeter, Kelly hoping to stay the night and get lucky, Calwell wanting to find the party at the dump, and I just looking for something to do.
We find the RV campsite rather than the dump, where women are set up in luxury, even one with a bird cage containing a live bird. Although nobody is naked, some are topless, with patches of duct tape on their nipples to comply with the national forest laws.
We find the acoustic stage by accident, surrounded by women and an empty set of chairs. It’s hard not to be both attracted to and wary of the women here. We get lost in the woods and find the Twilight Zone, where women practice SM sex, a group that was once resisted and boycotted.
Some people suggest allowing trans women to camp here, but it could be abusive to require anyone to camp in such an environment.
To get away from the tense political atmosphere of Camp Trans was a relief for both me and Calwell. We were both scared of being judged, worried that if we said the wrong thing we’d be alienated.
The idea of a safe space to make mistakes without being condemned made us laugh, although perhaps it’s not achievable. People like to compare this situation to fighting racism, and it’s true that being there felt like the beginning of a civil rights movement.
At the final campfire of Camp Trans, Cassidy was expertly tending the roaring flames, while Chris roasted marshmallows on a stick and Simon cooked potatoes and garlic in foil. Cold pizza was passed around, and someone else had brought a bottle of Boone’s Farm.
Although alcohol had been prohibited all week, many of the revelers had been clearly under its influence. Max, one of the people who had helped to revive the camp back in 1999, was acting out the story of the “lesbian curse”.
With the help of some other campers, he was depicting the scenario of how he had awoken to find a group of women with mirrors, apparently putting a spell on Camp Trans and scaring him. Simon then shared his own story of his first time at Camp Trans, which involved a trans man, a sixteen-year-old trans girl, and the transsexual author and activist Riki Ann Wilchins, with Geyl acting as “rain” throughout.
It was Simon’s first time attending a festival and he was very excited. He was looking forward to the activities and the atmosphere that the event promised. As he arrived, he was met with a vibrant and energetic crowd that was ready to have a good time.
He spent the day enjoying the different attractions and conversations with other attendees. Simon’s first festival experience was one that he will never forget.
Tony, who had undergone bottom surgery and was identifying as a post-op trans man, decided to put the womyn-born-womyn only policy to the test. He argued that if his trans women friends are still considered men because they were assigned male at birth, then he should be considered a woman.
Thus, he went into the fest and asked permission from the women showering to join them, informing them of his body type. Unfortunately, when new people came into the showers, they were shocked, and the next morning, there were rumors circulating about six non-op trans women having exposed their erect penises in the girls camp.
Riki took a courageous step on Saturday noon by leading a ticket-buying action at the fest, attended by a number of Lesbian Avengers including myself. The young trans woman present also bought a ticket, even though she could have been perceived differently.
This was a momentous occasion for everyone present and there were tears of joy. Unfortunately, the celebration did not last long as a woman started marching in front of us, screaming “Man on the Land!”
At the festival, we received some support from attendees who walked with us. When we got to the main area, it was a bit overwhelming. We were asked to have a discussion in the kitchen tent and before that, people were coming up to us from all angles, some in support and some to be belligerent.
The atmosphere was hostile and there wasn’t much of a middle ground. We were seated in the front of the tent with four of us avengers and Riki, and the audience consisted of seven rows of irate lesbians.
They shouted accusations at us, calling us rapists, haters of women, and accusers that we had no respect for either women or rape survivors. This discussion went on for three hours and we didn’t feel like anyone was actually listening to what we had to say. That was my first experience at a festival.
I can’t bring myself to leave the circle as I realize this is it. The next morning, I’m off to Grand Rapids with Katina, a regular at Camp Trans, who is not exactly liked by her friends.
She muses, “Every year when I left Michigan, I thought I’d come back the following year. But this time, I know I won’t.” With her hair in a multitude of braids, decorated with elastics of varying shades, Katina resides and works in Brooklyn.
To make some extra money, she buys Strawberry Shortcake dolls on eBay from sellers who have misspelled the name, then puts them back up for sale with the correct spelling. This is how she manages to get a good deal and double her money.
Camp Trans is fortunate to have someone as smart and helpful as Katina. As I step out of her car, I give her a big hug. We used to say goodbye to each other at Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival with the phrase, “See You Next Year.” We repeat it again.
Using a different structure, the same context and semantic meaning can be expressed without plagiarism: It is possible to modify the structure of a text without altering the context or meaning of the words to eliminate plagiarism.
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