The view looking out from my tent on Womyn’s Land one morning, Michfest 2004
Do yourself a favor and feast your eyes on Amy’s Brain Today’s post of yesterday in which she responds to and expands on issues raised in my recent post and in all of the related posts throughout the blogosphere. Amy’s post is just magnificent. An excerpt:
As a radical lesbian feminist separatist, I claim as my heritage lesbian/feminist politics and culture. And I want to be very clear that what is contested here is the existence of that culture, and who will define the terms of its existence. This is demonstrated, perhaps most clearly, by the relentless protest targeting the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, and the fact that a major source of the momentum behind that protest comes, not from transwomen, but from (to use the festival’s terminology) “women-born-women.” To some extent, the transgender movement is being used by certain lesbians in an attempt to gain control over the definition and future direction of lesbian/feminist culture, to continue the trend of focusing away from women- and lesbian-identified lesbians and our interests. This disregard for and denial of lesbian/feminist culture is demonstrated by the demands of Camp Trans, and others, that artists who perform at Michigan should be banned from “queer” events throughout the rest of the year–artists who, in many cases, have dedicated their lives to feminist activism and the creation of lesbian/feminist music, writing, and art. Their lesbian performances, and their lesbian/feminist perspectives, are not welcome at “queer” festivals unless they toe the transgender party line. This is demonstrated by the response to Yawning Lion’s blog post back in the spring, and by the fact that the entire current internet brouhaha was begun by someone criticizing the posting of a quote by Sheila Jeffreys having nothing to do with transgenderism. Whenever a lesbian is accused of “transphobia,” any work that she may have done on behalf of women or lesbians is crushed underfoot and trampled into the dirt. It does not matter; it’s as if it doesn’t even exist. The fact that Michfest has for 30 years provided a refuge for lesbians to express our sexuality openly in a world where sexual love between women is still punishable by death–not to mention a space in which women and girls are safe from male violence–means nothing in the terms that have been used to frame this debate. The fact that Alix Dobkin has spent her life traveling the world performing for women/lesbians only, singing and writing about the lives of lesbians, means nothing. The fact that Sheila Jeffreys is a brilliant feminist historian who has traced the repression of female sexuality by men is absent from this controversy. These facts and many more like them illustrate nothing less than an attempt to erase an entire culture–which is ironic in the face of transgender activists’ endless assertions that women and lesbians try to define the experience of transwomen. Given the continual denial of the value of lesbian/feminist efforts for lesbians and women, it sure looks like the transgender movement is trying to define, if not outright destroy, lesbian/feminist culture as an autonomous free space created by lesbians, for lesbians. This amounts to sexism within the “LGBTQ” “community” and in this sense, this conflict is part of the greater backlash against feminism. This is one reason why this controversy is, or should be, of concern to “mainstream,” straight, and liberal feminists.
I am the inheritor of lesbian/feminist culture. I am one of those the women who started Michfest in 1975 were dreaming of–a generation of lesbian/feminists who might come along behind and build on what they started. So many of those women did not have children of the body, but I am nevertheless their sister-daughter; perhaps I am also their sister-lover, for I surely love them and what they built, passionately, with my whole self, heart/mind/body/soul. And I am here to tell you that, as the creative bloom of an oppressed group, that culture is valid, on its own terms. It has the right to exist as it sees fit. It has the right to define itself in any way it chooses. It has the right to a political analysis that makes sense from where it, we, I stand. I am here to tell you–if you are not living in the world as a lesbian, as a woman who loves women, who puts lesbians first, lesbian/feminist culture is not yours. If you are attempting to appropriate lesbian/feminist culture for the purposes of destroying all it has tried to build, your claim to it is not legitimate. I have spent countless hours of my time and a pretty nice chunk of change working on an archive to preserve some of the political writing of that culture–not because I approve of everything that’s in it, but because I think the history of my people and their struggles is important, and deserves to be known and understood by all people who claim to want justice.
Hear hear! The crowd is on its feet, standing, waving, and cheering, Amy. Rock on!