When Is A Dyke Unwelcome At A Dyke March?
When is a dyke unwelcome at a dyke march? When she’s a musical performer named Bitch and she advocates for the “Womyn-Born-Womyn (WBW) only space” of the Michigan Womyns Music Festival (MWMF), and transpeople and their allies successfully argue that the diversity model of viewing the MWMF as a segregationist, “separate-but-equal” approach to discrimination over the feminist model that MWMF is just providing space for WBW.
What a mouthful.
Kathy Belge has a good breakdown of the differing viewpoints that go into the how the diversity model and womyn-born-womyn feminist model are clashing in her article Michigan Womyns Music Festival And Trans Women; Transsexual Women and the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival.
The MWMF controversies that Kathy Belge explained though, have spilled over into this past weekend’s Boston Dyke March. Transpeople and their allies successfully argued there that anyone who both performs at MWMF and doesn’t denounce the “Womyn-Born-Womyn (WBW) only space” concept of the MWMF should be boycotted at other LGBT events. Bitch was invited to be a performer at Boston Dyke March, then at the eleventh hour disinvited because of previous statement in support of the “Womyn-Born-Womyn (WBW) only space” concept.
What were those statements? In an interview with Kathy Beige, Bitch said:
(What Bitch has said that got her disinvited after the flip)
KB: Do you get shit from the trans community for playing at Michigan?
B: Yes, from parts of the trans community. People who think there aren?t trans people at Michigan are so fucked up. If someone tries to tell me [Michigan] is transphobic, I tell them to stuff it. There?s so many trannies there. And it?s not trans people being marginalized. It?s people who were born as men. The festival is for people who suffered a girlhood. That?s all it is. They?re not trying to redefine what women are. I think it?s really ironic, I don?t see nearly as much activism around all male gatherings. I?m sure everybody over at Camp Trans are not protesting all the all-male gatherings that happen all over the country all the time. It is so the patriarchy. I?m so over it. I think it?s totally the patriarchy and it?s complete ageism.
KB: How so?
B: Because going to Michigan is like going to another country. These visionaries set up Michigan for six f**king days out of the year. It?s not like they?re trying to make a city. They want to have a party with only these kinds of people. They?re our elders. They had a vision. When I was younger, I had a stereotype of what an older lesbian was. I thought they were nerdy, wearing purple all the time and walking around with their hand drum that they can?t play. And then when I went there I had my mind blown by what an intellectual, what a survivalist community it was. If my elders want to say for these six days only these kinds of women can come, then I need to respect that. It is so against our nature to respect women for having boundaries. I think that?s exactly what?s happening.
I had the same experiences as a white girl at Michigan. I felt blown away that I couldn?t go to the women of color events. I felt very entitled about it and very pissed off. And then I had to be schooled about it. I met this Black woman at a meeting and I told her I wanted to go to that, I feel it would educate me to be less racist. And she said sometimes people need to section off and they need to be with people who?ve had similar experiences so they can come out into the bigger community and be stronger people. I really had to respect that.
When me and Animal were on the scene, the three bands that people were going after were Bitch & Animal, The Butchies and Le Tigre. Ironically enough, the three bands that all have trans people in them, calling us transphobic. When I think of all of the girl energy/the raised female energy going into protesting that event when they could be getting the education of a lifetime and coming out into the bigger world and being such amazing trans activists. I would never go to a Black Women only event and demand that I be let in. I support us respecting our elders? boundaries.
AR: So, alright…I want to know how you feel about Michigan’s “women-born women only ” policy and how the controversy over the policy has impacted your experience on the land when you’re here and also when you leave. I also want to know if and how it’s intersected with your performance.
Bitch. I’d say my stance basically is that I support the policy. I support women making their own boundaries for something they’ve created and how they want it to go down in the world. I came upon that after years of debating with myself and with other people. It just dawned on me that in our society it’s so hard for us to accept women saying no to people. And that feels like the root of the issue for me – that this is a private gathering in a way, and it was set up by a small group of people who have this ideal that they want it to be like that, and I think that’s OK. Also, I can’t ignore the politics of entitlement around it, you know, how a lot of the issue, and I have noticed this in talking with my friends out at Camp Trans, a lot of the issues are around people born males. So, I find in this patriarchal system that so much of women’s energy goes towards making men feel comfortable and satisfying men. This is hard to say… I’m not convinced that if there were problems with people born women being excluded from this space…I’m not so convinced that so many people would rally around them, trying to help them. I think there’s a lot of entitlement at work. When I see protesters at my shows, generally the majority is not trans people. The majority of the protesters are fem girls, usually white students, and there’s usually one M to F – it’s all about them. So I can’t ignore that dynamic and I think it’s hard for people to tolerate, when they’re raised in the patriarchy, it’s hard for people to tolerate women saying no.
The diversity model that transadvocates and their allies put forward won the day at the Boston Dyke March, and the event ended up functionally boycotting Bitch — specifically because she is a “WBW only” concept supporter who performed at the MWMF. However, Boston Dyke March did their disinviting after transpeople and their allies complained — vice during the planning process deciding not to invite Bitch in the first place. Very messy.
I see the type of feminism that seeks to provide separate spaces for particular types of women based on race, natal sex, and past girlhood as clashing frequently in the future with the type of diversity that tries to turn all events into inclusive spaces. I’d even consider betting money that in the long run, the diversity model’s view of inclusively will win more battles than it loses in this clash. The reason is that exclusion for the purposes of creating specific womyn’s spaces has a narrative that sounds too much like separatism, and separatism sounds too much like “separate-but-equal” — and basically just plain discriminatory.
“Womyn-born-womyn only” space advocates will have to come up with a better plain English narrative that explains the need for these spaces if they don’t want to lose more battles to the diversity model. Bitch and her separate space allies just lost a very public battle at the Boston Dyke March because they don’t have a persuasive narrative for the broader LGBT community.
Related Subject Matter at joe.my.god: Transmen Controversies