Zeph Fish on the Inclusion of Trans Women at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival

4 September 2011

This year, Camp Trans 2011 turned out to be a very small affair, indeed. Because of the controversies of last year, a decision was made by the remaining organizers to move the dates of Camp Trans up one week so as not to coincide with the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, in an attempt to lessen the possibility of conflict and allow us some space in which to discuss the future of Camp Trans.

One wonderfully serendipitous result of this decision is that we were privileged to be visited by a number of Fest workers, who otherwise would not have had a chance to come by, busy as they would be with their duties on The Land. One such person camped out with us for several days before reporting for duty down the road, and I am honored to have made their acquaintance. That person is Zeph Fish, a genderqueer dyke from San Francisco who has attended Fest many times over the years. Yesterday, Zeph posted an open letter to the community on her Facebook page and her blog concerning the inclusion of trans women at Fest. Zeph’s letter is insightful, thoughtful, and caring, and I hope it will help create some badly needed healing on all sides, healing I certainly need myself after witnessing the aftermath of Alice Kalafarski’s article at Pretty Queer, both at PQ and on the MichFest forum site.

Here is an excerpt:

In the last decade and a half, the trans controversy is one reason I haven’t returned–I just found it so disappointing that the politics of the festival seemed so static and insular when other activist communities I’ve been involved with have become more inclusive and intersectional, a shift made possible by the successes of second wave feminism and GLBT organizing. I found it hard that dykes who had created such an strong radical space for building female power and confidence and networks were choosing to focus on fear, on border defense, and a flavor of gender policing that reminds me all-too-strongly of the ways my own gender gets policed in the mainstream world. I found it especially hard that the “womyn-born-womyn-only” adherents further marginalize a group of women who are targeted by the same hatreds, the same misogyny, the same narrow-box ideologies that make my life hard as a genderqueer/butch dyke. Many trans women are already survivors of patriarchal and sexual violence, poverty, homelessness, and discrimination. I may have a different experience of femaleness than a trans woman, but then again, as a white class-privileged able-bodied person I also have a different experience than a woman who is Latina, or disabled, or working class (or a femme!)–and yet we are able to create community together and (hopefully) work out our conflicts under the umbrella of the festival.


Thank you Zeph, thank you from the bottom of my heart. XOXO, Gemma


The Seal of Yin-Haan