Repeating the cycle at MichFest: The clash of two feminisms
April 12, 2015
Rowan Atkinson makes more sense than BBC’s “Woman’s Hour”
April 19, 2015

An open letter to Lisa Vogel: I bought my MichFest ticket!

By Autumn Sandeen


Hi Lisa Vogel,

Perhaps you know of me. My name is Autumn Sandeen. I’ve written about MichFest quite a few times over the past seven or eight years.

Have you noticed that the beloved LGBT inclusivity community the past few days has been directing its ire at the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the LGBTQ Task Force, as well as their executive directors Kate Kendall and Rea Carey? Have you noticed that the trans community is directing its ire at The TransAdvocate and its four editors? I bet you know why.

Last year, you said you wanted organizations to remove their names from the Equality Michigan petition before you’d discuss the “womyn-born-womyn intention” (the intention) of Michfest with their representatives. Well, some have. Have you seen what it’s cost those two LGBT organizations and The TransAdvocate so far?

How willing are you willing to risk the ire of your beloved MichFest community to now enter honest and productive discussion with representatives of these three organizations? As much ire as we’ve endured?

Over the years trans people and their community allies have protested, picketed, engaged in direct action, engaged in peaceful protests, set up informational booths, set up camps outside the festival, and last year even a petition was began that saw many large LGBT organizations sign onto it asking for the intention to end.

Nothing, but nothing, has moved you to change the intention.

You often state discussions on this important issue have been ongoing, yet these have been ongoing for decades — or not really ongoing, we should say. We both know, Lisa, you’ve never really sat down in a room with trans people across a table discussing the intention.

Lisa, we also both know your language has changed over the decades, but you always find something to equivocate over. So calling us trans women womyn doesn’t mean trans women are welcome at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival because, well, you’ve never added that final sentence at the end of the intention — “and trans women belong at MichFest too.”

So. Here we are.

Here at The TransAdvocate we want a discussion to be about evolving the intention‘s intention to an inclusive one for this 40th Anniversary MichFest year. Negotiations need to be about the process for doing so, not if it should be done.

But, if you believe trans women are males, then please have the courage of your convictions and tell representatives of trans community that face-to-face. Tell us why the intention must endure yet one more year where trans women are the only kind of intersectional women who aren’t welcome at MichFest.

A path is cleared: three groups off the petition, ready to meet with you to engage with you in honest and forthright discussion about the intention.

We at The TransAdvocate have a strategy that’s clearly going forward: the goal is discussion aimed at evolving the womyn-born-womyn intention so it includes trans women too.

The tactics I’ll personally advocate for going forward will include sacrifice and presence.

So, to begin. On April 13, 2015, I bought a Ticket to MichFest. When I receive it, I’ll be mailing it to NCLR’s Kate Kendall. If the intention evolves to become inclusive of all women before MichFest this year, I’ll go. If not, I’ll ask Kate to give it to another disabled woman on a fixed income — like I’m a disabled woman on a fixed income.

If you choose not to meet with us soon, then I will come up to your bay area offices and wait outside. If you choose to, you can come out of your office then and schedule a face-to-face meeting with others and me then. I’ll ask any trans womyn who want to join me outside your office for that possible “appointment watch” to join me if they’d like.

Or not. You see, I’m personally paying a price for The Transadvocate suspending our organization’s participation with Equality Michigan’s petition. Many believe we’ve lost our way, so I dont know if any will join me.

What is it though what Martin Luther King Jr. said?

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

It’s time, Lisa. It’s time for you to say the words “and trans womyn are welcome at MichFest under the intention too.”

I hope to see you in a meeting soon, Lisa; I hope to see you at MichFest this year as well.

Warmest thoughts,


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  • passerby1969

    Blah, blah, blah, The reality is that there is no Michigan Womyn’s music festival. You’ve destroyed an sintuttion. Instead of working with you, I now hate the the trans movement, Congtratuaionals, you man to woman. You were raised and have the the hormone advantage of men. You’v invaded our space. I hope you can live with yourselves.

    • Fun fact: the National Women’s Music Fest is older than MichFest and is still rockn’

      While I know dealing with the herstory surrounding MichFest isn’t something you seem very invested in, I’ll point out that what *we* at the TransAdvocate did was work for dialogue & document herstory. We pulled support of any petitions or bans long before it closed:

      If you believe teh tranz forced MichFest to close, you’re choosing to pretend that:

      – Attendance hadn’t been on the decline for more than a decade
      – MichFest was a financially sound event
      – MichFest was a safe space that coped with rape when MichFest womyn would rape others on the Land.

      I suppose blaming the Great Trans Conspiracy for MichFest closing is easier than thinking about fundraising did *you* didn’t do to pull the Fest out of the red.

      > But you know you will never be true women.


      Maybe read some radical feminist pioneers like Wittig, MacKinnon, or Delphy.

      • passerby1969

        Typical idiot. The National Womyn’s festival is twice as far and twice as expensive as the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival was. Are you going to insist that be brought down too? Do they not offer the right version of carrots in their meal plan?

        Transgenders shit on the parades of women.

  • passerby1969

    I hope you social justice warriors are happy now. Instead of more spaces for Lesbians, there are now fewer. I would have quite too, if I were Lisa Vogel. You basically shit all over her for creating a business of love for women.

    I, for one, appreciated the opportunities that the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival gave to women to try new things for the first time on their own: camping, setting up tents, maybe car traveling, transportation, lighting crew, sound crew, organizing.

    Instead of creating something original, you shit all over someone else’s passion. Baby out with the bath water, and all that stuff.

    • You’re saying that you want to create more spaces like this for Lesbians?

      [A woman remembered an incident in which a rape occurred at the festival. Woman to woman violence was not a topic in which anyone else wished to engage and, after a few seconds of silence, a new topic was introduced. The issue of how the incident was dealt with did not elicit comment. Apparently, the perpetrator was asked to leave the Land and escorted off. No charges were laid and no report was filed with local authorities in Crystal County. This lack of response is not surprising, considering how recently the topic of domestic violence in lesbian relationships has emerged as something which can be discussed (see Ristock, 1998), and the lack of reporting around partner abuse in general. What made it surprising was that on most other aspects of the festival women were willing to engage in criticism, evaluation and lively argument.

      The construction of Michigan as safe space is one in which women are heavily invested. The need for the construct outweighs the need to take the steps required to make it a reality. In part, this is probably due to the fact that the reality of complete safety is unattainable. Each woman brings her own ideas of what safety is for her, and addressing the diversity of those needs means unpacking the assumed homogeneity of lesbian and women’s space. While the women’s movement has begun to address issues of diversity, it has not yet successfully integrated those issues into ongoing discourse. Michigan participants reflect that lack of integration in their unwillingness to take on the issue of safety.]

      – Leverick, Jane. A Field of Women, Exploring Meanings at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. National Library of Canada, 2001. pp 17 – 18

      PS: You know, significant Resistance to the MichFest policy began when MichFest security informed non-trans Lesbians, who were hosting consciousness-raising sessions, that their physical safety was in danger and that they needed to ensure that anyone suspected of being trans was outside of the event:

      • passerby1969

        You closed the joint; You basically shit on your supporters. Fuck you and your movement. You have created enemies where there was none.

        • Why do you want to protect a place that protects cis women rapists who rape MichFest women on the Land?
          Why protect a space that was so racist, Black Lesbians had to create their own safespace outside the Fest?
          Why do you want to protect a place that isn’t physically safe for trans-supportive cis Lesbians?
          Why do you want to protect a place allows adults openly threaten the life of Lesbian Avenger youth with a knife?

          Ask the pioneering radical feminist Robin Tyler how safe she felt on the Land as a Dyke.

          I mean, I get that there are a lot of folks who went to the Fest who didn’t have to deal with racism, who weren’t raped by other cis women on the Land, and who weren’t physically threatened. For y’all, I’m sure you remember it as a place that had no warts, was safe, wasn’t racist.

          • passerby1969

            Christ, not all activity is about YOU and transgenders. You shit on someone else’s parade. She closed up shop. What fuckwits you are.

          • Please copy and paste into a reply where I mention trans people in the post you replied to.

          • passerby1969

            How does it feel to be responsible for bringing down a 40-year institution? How does it feel to close off spaces for women? Are you proud of your little social justice self?

          • Is it easier for you to believe a powerful trans cabal brought down MichFest rather than look at your own lack of fundraising after the Fest that was, due to a decade of declining attendance, operating in the red?

  • Oh good. I’m glad you’ve finally come to your senses. After you’ve finished doing tea with Lisa Vogel, can we fight for a transgender student union at Bob Jones University? Camping and music are great fun, but I feel that trans people need to fight for academic inclusion, too.

  • dee omally

    Need anything else be said about TERFS? Autumn is trying a last-gasp attempt at mutual agreement with Lisa Vogel, has clearly spelled it out and yet TERFS are referring to it as stalking? For hope to have a chance, there must be those willing to give it a chance. TERFs have never wavered in saying that “no chance will a male ever become female” which of course has been false for 65+ years.

    After their inevitable refusal to even sit at the table, let alone have a discussion, we are reminded that the KKK still remains, even 50 years after 1964. Hate is a force that will forever be inextricable in the hearts of many, and yet for hate to find an abode, it must be welcomed in. TERFs are saturated with hate and nobody can credibly argue to the contrary, given that they spare no opportunity to express it. If they were truly an anti-violent group dedicated to female safety, they would be exorcise their 5th-grade level lexicon, spit out the chewing tobacco, wash out their oral cavity with antimicrobial soap, rip off their bully name-tag, and join us in repelling real predators that prey on all females.

    Clearly the presence of hate has been the absence of many who have fallen from the hands of the hateful. Given the extremely high lethal risk merely for being trans from family rejection, suicides, and homophobia, clearly to TERFs, not enough of us have “fallen.”

    Black Americans have no need or use for the KKK or NeoNazis, and we have no need for the approval of TERFs, which will never come. Their obsession is self-evident, their penis envy legendary, and their rage unquenchable. Traitors, including LGBT traitors, are as incorrigible as they come and no less lethal.

  • Amalthea

    Please let me wish you all success in this endeavor for peace and reconciliation. As one perspective on this process, I might share my ideas from last August about possible language for a new statement of the intention of Fest:


    The intention of Michfest is to gather, for one week each year, in a celebration centered around the life-long experience of womonhood in all of its seasons and variations: the experience of womyn who were deemed female at birth, share the journey of girlhood, and continue to live and identify as womyn. Thus firmly centered, our loving intention expands its circumference so as to welcome and embrace all womyn: all our sisters who now live and identify as womyn.

    While all womyn are welcome, at the heart of Fest is the Lesbian experience as embodied by womyn-identified-womyn assigned female at birth; and also shared in their own way by many other womyn encompassed within the circle of our expansive intention.

    Above all, we intend to create and sustain a safe, all-womyn’s space for healing where survivors of rape and domestic violence, and those coping with post-traumatic stress disorder or other issues, can find rest, respite, and joyous renewal. Michfest is a unique space containing within it many spaces and niches, where we can honor both our special needs and differences, and our common sisterhood which carries us from year to year and from Fest to Fest, as we are reminded by our perennial greeting on the Land: “Welcome home!”