Thursday, April 03, 2008

Stuff Lesbians Like #3: The Michigan Womyns Music Festival

As in "See you in August!"

Each year in August somewhere between 3 to 10 THOUSAND women gather on (what some consider holy or sacred) 650 acres of woodland near Hart Michigan known as "The Land" for a week of festivities including workshops and lots and lots of music. There is not a moment that the beat of a drum does not register on one's eardrums while in attendance.

According to Wikipedia
, the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival (MWMF) was created in 1976 by members of the We Want the Music Collective (Lisa Vogel, her sister Kristie and Mary Kindig).

: The festival is completely built, staffed, and run by women; indeed, women build all of the stages, run the light and sound systems, make the trash collection rounds, serve as electricians, mechanics, security, medical and psychological support, cook meals for 4,000 over open fire pits, provide childcare, and facilitate workshops covering various topics of interest to the attendees, who are referred to as "festies".

The Land provides "healing space" for various communities; Womyn of Color, girls and teens, women who have been sexually assaulted, etc. It also provides separate space for non-vegetarians and those engaging in 'alternative' sexual activities.

No males over the age of four are allowed on the land, although a satellite boys camp exists for boys through age 11. The official policy of the festival is that only "women-born-women" are allowed onto The Land.

This policy led to a controversy about the inclusion of transsexual and transgendered people's admittance into the festival and onto The Land.

Again, according to Wikipedia
In 1991 Nancy Burkholder, who had attended the festival the year before without incident, was expelled from MWMF when she disclosed her transsexual status to festival workers who, in turn, informed the festival office. Burkholder was asked to leave the festival and received a full refund of her ticket. Festival organizers continued to advocate their support of the women-born-women policy even as criticism from some segments of the queer community mounted in response to Burkholder's departure.

The festival has stated that it does not and will not perform "panty checks." Rather, it states that women must "self-monitor", and attend only if they can honestly state that they were born as a girl, lived as a girl, and presently identify as a woman.

The last time that I attended the festival, a small group stood outside the gates protesting the 'women-born-women only' policy. One sign said something to the effect of "Honk if you support transsexuals!"

We honked away!

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