A TERF’s fist gave rise to trans-inclusive women’s music festivals
August 17, 2014
#TERFweek Redux
August 19, 2014

How TERF violence inspired Camp Trans

By Cristan Williams
@cristanwilliams

 

In the middle of a cool August night in 1991, Nancy Burkholder was thrown out of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (MWMF) because she’s a trans woman.  Burkholder was Janis Walworth’s friend and she was outraged that MWMF’s would engage in anti-trans discrimination. Walworth, a cisgender radical lesbian feminist,  immediately began to educate MWMF attendees about trans people. After coping with threats of violence and dealing with having her consciousness-raising space vandalized by TERFs, she – with body guard protection from the Lesbian Avengers – helped form what became, Camp Trans.

She told that I had I had to leave the festival and that I would not even be allowed to return to my campsite to retrieve my equipment. I realized that Chris and Del were expelling me in spite of all the irrefutable legal and anatomical proof that I was a women. I knew there was nothing more I could say to these women. I resigned myself to the fact that these women were expelling me from the festival. – Nancy Burkholder, 1991

Camp Trans consisted of several dozen transsexual women and supporters who leafleted Michigan attendees and held workshops and readings that attracted hundreds of women from the other side of the road. The significance of this protest was noted by Riki Wilchins, “… it was the first time that significant numbers of the hard-core lesbian feminist community backed us” – Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, p 523


Cristan Williams: I understand that you were very active in the first response to the trans-exclusion policy at the MWMF. Can you talk about that?

Janis Walworth: From what I understand, MWMF had a trans exclusion policy before Nancy [Burkholder] was thrown out of the festival, that this policy had been discussed quite some time before, like in the late 1970s.

Williams: Ah, yes. Lisa Vogel – the owner of the MWMF – and several MWMF acts were active in the effort to put pressure on Olivia Records, a Radical Feminist, lesbian-separatist music collective, for being trans inclusive in the late 1970s. All of that culminated in armed TERFs asserting their desire to murder Sand Stone, the trans woman who was a member of the Olivia Collective. There’s a newspaper from 1977 that published an open letter to the Olivia collective that Lisa Vogel signed onto, condemning Olivia’s trans-inclusive policies. I can understand how that anti-trans ideology was there in the early days of MichFest.


Excerpts from Vogel’s letter to Olivia:

Dear Olivia:

We are writing concerning your decision to employ Sandy Stone as your recording engineer and sound technician. We feel that it was and is irresponsible of you to have presented this person as a woman to the women’s community when in fact he is a post-operative transsexual.

Given the narrow options available to us, it is also likely that many of us would have to work with Stone. Some of us have already done so without the knowledge that this person was not a woman. When we did discover the truth about Stone and tried to discuss this with you, we were told that you considered him very much a woman, a lesbian, and that you trusted him more than middle class, heterosexual women. This was very painful to hear and indicated a great lack of respect and love for women and our struggle. We do not believe that a man without a penis is a woman any more than we would accept a white woman with dyed skin as a Black woman.

TERF letter published in Sister, 1977


Walworth: Yes, there apparently was a policy, which was never promulgated in any significant way. Although, the festival organizers apparently understood that the phrase “womyn-born-womyn” was meant to exclude trans women, other people didn’t necessarily understand the meaning the festival gave to that phrase.

Williams: So, after you heard about Nancy’s expulsion from the festival, what was your response to the festival’s behavior?

Walworth: I had been a friend of Nancy’s for a while before that. She and I had both gone to the festival in 1990 and there were no incidents. So, she had come there in 1991, I was there also, she had come with her friend. Laura and I had seen Nancy at the beginning of the festival, and then I didn’t see her again, for several days. I began to wonder — of course, there are so many people in there, it’s easy enough to not run into people — but, I had really been keeping an eye out for her and had not seen her. Finally, Laura found me and told me what had happened.

I then called Nancy and talked to her about it and we agreed that it was important for as many people as possible to know out this and I spent the rest of my time at that festival talking to people and just letting them know what had happened. And most people I talked to were horrified. I remember talking to one person – someone that I had known personally for a long time – whose response was, “Well, that’s the way that it should be.” So, there was a range of responses, but really, most people I talked to were like, “REALLY?!? That’s unbelievable!”

So, that was the initial response to what had happened. It was in 1991 when Nancy was thrown out. We were just all in shock about it and we were just trying to let as many people as possible know about what happened.

After the festival, we began a letter-writing campaign, writing gay newspapers and stuff like that, just to make sure that people knew.

Williams: So, when the 1992 festival rolled around, were you involved in any of actions that happened hat year?

The start of organized resistance

Walworth: Oh yeah. Yes. In 1992 it was decided that – I mean, I had been talking with Nancy and with some other trans activists – we decided that somebody needed to go back to the festival and let people know what was going on and to make our voices heard so that we could start doing some education.

So, I went back there and I went there with Davina Gabriel, my sister went with me, another woman named Brandy and another woman from Kansas City. So, the four of us went and we had a lot of literature. I had written up what I called, Gender Myths – they were just a short statement of some belief some people held about trans women and men and then under that, the Fact, a little paragraph explaining what was factual – and we had these printed up in bright colors and we posted those in the port-o-potties. We went around every day, with handfuls of these things. I mean, a lot of people put literature in the port-o-potties because, while you’re sitting there, it’s something to read. So, we posted these Gender Myths in ALL the port-o-potties. They got torn down on a regular basis, and so we went around, every single day, and posted them again, sometimes twice a day.

IMG_1904

We also had a table out at the area called One World, which is the area for literature, and they have tables set up there so that people can put up litterateur there. People usually just put literature out and walk away. We actually took a table and brought some chairs and sat behind it and talked to people as they went by, which was kind of unheard of in that area, at the time.

Gender Myth Set

Gender Myth Set

We had buttons made up like “Friend of Nancy” and you know, a lot of people took these buttons and wore them around. One of the biggest things we did that year was a survey because I wanted to find out exactly how much support we had.

IMG_1856

Buttons from 1992

Williams: WOW! I’ve never heard of this survey before!

Walworth: Yeah, it was a really important thing for us to do because I felt like we could sit there and hand out literature all day, but we didn’t really have any basis for doing a real protest without knowing what our support-base was.

The 1992 Trans-Inclusive MWMF Survey

Gender Opinion Survey:

  1. Do you think that male-to-female transsexuals should be welcome at the MWMF?
    Circle one:                           YES   NO
    Why or why not?             ________________________________________________
  2. If not, what would be the best way to determine if a person is a male-to-female transsexual?
    ____________________________________________________________________
  3. Do you think that female-to-male transsexuals should be welcome at the MWMF?
    Circle one:                           YES   NO
    Why or why not?             ________________________________________________
  4. If not, what would be the best way to determine if a person is a female-to-male transsexual?
    ____________________________________________________________________

Use the back of this paper to tell any personal experiences you have had or beliefs and philosophies you hold that contribute to your views about this topic.

Thank you!

Walworth: We had a box at our table so that when they got done with the survey, they could drop it into the box. Every night we took the survey all the way back out to my car and locked them in the car because we were afraid that somebody would vandalize them if we left them out. Other tables had surveys that were left out so that people could just do them around the clock, but we were afraid that if we left them unattended, something would happen to them.

IMG_1899

I have the results. We did a total of 633 surveys and there were about 7,500 attendees that year which gave us a response rate of 8.4%. The margin of error was 3.8%. We did this right [laughs].

In answer to the first question, YES responses were 73.1%; NO responses were 22.6% and the other 4.3% were things like, “I’m not sure” or simply did not answer.

Given these results, the chance that the majority of 7500 MWMF participants believe transsexuals should not be admitted would be less than 1 in 100,000. This calculation assumes that our sample was randomly selected, which it certainly was not. However, even if half of the YES answers are attributed to the bias of the sample and eliminated from the calculation, there is still a better than 999 in 1000 chance that most Festigoers would welcome transsexuals.

The reasons Festigoers gave for wanting to exclude transsexuals were:

  • They are not women
  • They are not women-born women
  • They make others uncomfortable
  • They have been socialized as males
  • They have had male privilege
  • They think like men
  • They have male energy
  • They have penises
  • They behave like men
  • They are too feminine

Reasons given for including transsexuals were:

  • They are women
  •  They identify as women
  •  They have made a commitment to womanhood
  • They have been through enough
  • We should not oppress others
  • They have chosen to be women
  • We should be inclusive
  • We should not judge an individual’s choice
  • They can benefit from the women’s community
  • Internally they are women
  • They are oppressed as women
  • They are living as women
  • They share women’s goals and perspectives
  • They are not threatening

In answer to the question, “What is the best way to determine whether an individual is a male-to-female transsexual?” there was a considerable range of opinion. Of the 227 responses, 126 were from those against inclusion, 86 from those women in favor of inclusion and 15 from those without a clear opinion about inclusion. And here are the reasons that people gave:

  • Ask them
  • Trust them to be honest
  • Don’t know
  • Announce the policy clearly
  • Check their genitals
  • There is no accurate way to tell
  • Driver’s license or picture ID
  • There is no dignified way to tell
  • Self-identification should be sufficient
  • We shouldn’t try
  • Surgery should be complete
  • By their behavior
  • Genetic testing, [laughs] I love that one! Do these people think we are going to do genetic testing in the woods?
  • Birth certificate
  • Written exam or questionnaire
  • Medical certificate

Of course, these people are not thinking about the fact that, in order for this to work, everybody has to bring this documentation! They’re just thinking that stuff like this would only apply to trans women when, in fact, everybody would have to do this!

Cristan: [Laughs] Genital checks and genetic testing! [Laughs]

Walworth: [Laughs] Additionally, two were in favor of interviews, having a friend vouch for them and “intuition.”

Cristan: [Laughs]

Walworth: [Laughs] I guess they were thinking that there would be psychics posted at the gate entrance.

Cristan: And this was in 1992, right?

Walworth: Yes, yes. Another response was that everyone should have their testosterone levels checked and that everyone’s bone structure should be scrutinized.

Cristan: [Laughs] Wow!

Walworth: So there you go!

Camp Trans

Cristan: So in 1992, that was where the momentum for Camp Trans began?

Walworth: That first year, 1992, we did the survey with the intention of continuing on with some kind of protest or engagement with the festival. So yes, this was the groundwork. This was the beginning. We spent our time at the table doing education with the Gender Myths and doing the survey to figure out what our support base was like.

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We also had an engagement with Alix Dobkin that year.

Cristan: Oh? Alix was one of the TERFs who signed onto that horrible open letter to Olivia, attacking Sandy Stone.

Walworth: Yes, she is very anti-trans. She came to do a community forum and her workshop area had like, more than 100 people. It was just an opportunity for people to ask questions and she would answer them. And so, I went there and I was wearing a shirt that Anne Ogborn had given me. She wasn’t able to be there, so I wore the shirt she had given me and the shirt read, in these huge letters: SEX CHANGE.

Cristan: [Laughs]

Walworth: And so I went to Alix Dobkin’s workshop wearing Anne’s t-shirt. Alix did her thing and people would ask questions and, it’s not like she knew the names of anyone who she was calling on to ask her a question, so she would call on people by saying things like, “You with the curly hair and sunglasses.” When it came time for me to ask a question, Alix pointed at me and said, “Yes, you – sex change.”

Cristan: [Laughs]

Walworth: One of the things she was talking about was how she was tired of people whining about how things aren’t the way they wanted and if people wanted to change things about the festival, they should come here and engage in dialogue. So, when she called on me, I asked, “How can people show up when they are not allowed through the front gate?” To which she didn’t have a response.

She came by our table and we asked her to fill out a survey. She was [pause], she was not friendly toward us. I mean, we wanted to dialogue with people and so we were always very civil.

In 1993, we went back again. There were four trans women and me in 93. We were prepared to be thrown out.  We again set up a table, like we had before and we proceeded to do our educational outreach.

Some people in the festival began harassing us and then around noon on Wednesday or Thursday, the festival security stopped by and told us that the trans women in our group would have to leave, “for their own safety.”

Cristan: For your own SAFETY? Are you saying that TERFs were talking about attacking your group?

Walworth: Tensions were definitely rising, we were told. We had scheduled to do some workshops and some folks were definitely hostile. We were told that, for our own safety, the trans women would need to leave the festival as soon as possible. It was a situation.

We had decided before all of this that if they asked us to leave, we would leave. We had all of our camping gear and had decided that we would just set up across the street from the festival.

1992: Leaving the Festival

1993: Leaving the Festival

We decided that I would stay inside the festival to continue educating people and the other folks would set up camp across the street from the festival in protest.

They made very slow progress out of the festival because people kept stopping them and asking why they were leaving and then they would explain the whole thing – which was a great educational moment – but the leather Dykes has stopped them.

The leather Dykes were trying to convince our folks to not leave the festival. They said that they would provide body guard protection for our group, in their camp. They were very adamant that the threatened violence was wrong, that forcing the victims of the threatened violence to leave was wrong, and that the entire policy was wrong.

Ultimately, we stuck to our plan and we set camp for the trans folk.

The next day, I made sure our education table was set up, and then went to visit the Camp. They had put up an amazing sign. It was bright neon pink banner and on it was written in big letters, “Transsexual Womyn Expelled From Festival: Too Out To Be In!”

IMG_1863

1993: Trans Camp

There was no way that you couldn’t see the banner, coming or going from the festival. They had set up a tarp and a table with all of our literature there.  That space became a really cool thing because you could not miss this camp. Every woman who left the festival or who came back into the festival saw this sign.

People wanted to know what was going on. A lot of people stopped and talked with us out there. People came out from the festival to specifically talk with us. We had workshops that were scheduled inside the festival, so we posted that they would be happening outside the festival, and people came out of the festival to attend our workshop.

People came out and they brought food, and water, and flowers, I mean, it was an amazing, amazing thing.

I spent time going back and forth between the Camp and our table inside, because I was the only one who could do anything inside. Our table, inside the festival, was vandalized while I was at the Camp. They had taken our stuff from our table – buttons, literature, supplies — and dumped it into a port-o-potty. I informed security because it was going to cause problem when it came time to clean it out.

I started putting out only a few things while I was gone so that when it would be vandalized, we would still have some things to put out afterwards. The literature that we put up, was torn down routinely.

Camp Trans: 1994

(L to R) Unknown, Leslie Feinberg,  Minnie Bruce Pratt, Jamison Green

(L to R) Unknown, Leslie Feinberg, Unknown, Jamison Green

Camp Trans really came into focus in 1994. We had a year to organize and let people know where we were going to be. Riki Wilchins had showed up at the end of the 1993 Camp and she really became involved in 1994. I think she was the one who thought up the name, “Camp Trans.”

That year we went back with the intention of not going back into the festival because we could do our work outside the festival. We were WAY more visible across the road. For that festival, we made a banner that said, “Camp Trans: For Humyns-Born-Humyns.” There were 28 people who came to camp that year.  There was Riki, who brought a lot of people from New York, Leslie Feinberg and Minnie Bruce Pratt, an intersex woman, an older grandmotherly woman, a friend of mine and her partner and their 4 year old and Nancy Burkholder was there again. So, we had the camp made up of all kinds of people, ages four to 70-something and every sort of gender you can think of.

Leslie Feinberg speaking at Camp Trans

Leslie Feinberg speaking at Camp Trans

Cristan: [Laughs] That’s awesome!

Walworth: As people were coming into the festival, we were handing out literature. The festival organizers didn’t like it. They were telling folks not to take our literature, the sheriff came out, and the park ranger came out. They would do things like wait until five in the morning when we were all asleep and blare loud music at us.

Cristan: Oh wow! So, the festival really worked to try and silence you.

Walworth: Yeah, but we kept doing our education. What we were doing was amazing, though. I mean, we had this lesbian couple come out to Camp Trans to get married. One of the trans women was a minister and this couple thought that the best place to have their wedding was at Camp Trans!

The grandmotherly women went up to the festival gate to go into the festival because she knew that she had a friend inside that she wanted to see. Since she was over 65, she didn’t have to pay and so when she got up there, the security people at the gate knew that she was from Camp Trans. They debated over what to do and they finally allowed her to go in with a security detail, “for her own protection,” they said.  She said, “Why do I need protection. I’m a grandmother. Are you saying that an old woman like me can’t go safely into your festival? What kind of place is this?”

Cristan: [Laughter] I can’t believe that she had to have protection! That’s horrible!

IMG_1870

Walworth: There were a whole bunch of Lesbian Avengers inside the festival and they were going to have a workshop. Some of them had come out to our Camp and they wanted us to come to their workshop. We explained the safety situation with them and they said, “Well, what if we send out a bunch of Lesbian Avengers out to escort you in?” They were offering to guard us. Knowing that we would have them as guards, we thought that maybe we could do it. Some of the folks from our Camp felt like they would be okay going inside and so, we had this contingent who would go to the Lesbian Avengers meeting and then they would walk us out.

So, everyone from our Camp who self-identified as a womyn-born-womyn decided to purchase a day ticket so they could go to the Lesbian Avengers meeting. We also had a training on how to deal with hostility, if anything happened. So, when the time came, a big group of Lesbian Avengers came out and met our group and they escorted our group to their meeting.  The Lesbian Avengers came, they were beating drums and singing songs and welcomed our group into their own. They marched all the way to the meeting, they did the workshop and then, the Lesbian Avengers marched our contingent through the rest of the festival. So, all of this was highly visible. After the show of solidarity, the Lesbian Avengers marched back down to Camp Trans, safely returning our group to us.

Cristan: Wow! That’s, just amazing!

Walworth: Yes, it really was. The Camp Trans experience was a beautiful thing and the support that so many of the festival goers was just fantastic!


Camp Trans continued its presence until 2012. In 2010, an Anarchy zine claimed that someone had vandalized a wall in the MWMF kitchen. While neither the MWMF nor Camp Trans has corroborated the claim, it was published as highly embellished fact in Sheila Jeffreys new anti-trans TERF book, Gender Hurts:

Rikki Wilchins… has given up any attempts to look ‘feminine’, though he still uses the women’s toilets (Wilchins, 2013). Wilchins is… the founder of the encampment that lays siege to the Michigan Women’s Music Festival, CampTrans. – Gender Hurts, Page 61

Moreover, the festival offers a space where women can be freely loving and affectionate towards one another in ways that heterosexual people take for granted, engaging in ‘same-sex intimacies through holding hands, kissing, etc. in all of the festival spaces’ free from men’s insults and threats of violence

These are all activities that women, and lesbians in particular, cannot feel safe or comfortable to engage in when in male company. For all these reasons, transgender activists want access. According to Emi Koyama, author of the ‘Transfeminist Manifesto’ (Koyama, 2001 ), the siege of the festival began in 1993 when some transgender activists set up ‘Camp Trans’ opposite the entrance to the festival to protest the policy of not admitting self-identifi ed transgenders (Koyama, 2006 ). – Gender Hurts, Page 166 – 167

Jeffreys then cites a known internet troll’s blog, Dirt from Dirt to make the claim that in addition to the unsubstantiated claim of the zine, trans people were shooting guns, engaging in chemical warfare, slashing car tires, vandalizing camp sites, cutting water lines and caused women to have PTSD. (Gender Hurts: 168)

Since Jeffreys felt it met her professional academic standards to publish the unsubstantiated claims of an internet troll as if it were fact for her academic readers, I thought I would offer the account of the non-transgender lesbian feminist who inspired it all.

For an additional reality check on the claims that Jeffreys makes about trans people at Women’s Music Festivals, see, “A TERF’s fist gave rise to trans-inclusive women’s music festivals.”

As of this year, numerous national social justice organizations have joined with the trans community in asking the MWMF to bring and end to their decades of exclusion. If you would like to support the intention formed in 1991 to answer discrimination with coalition-building, education and outreach, you can add your name to Equality Michigan’s petition, asking the MWMF to end their trans discrimination:


I want to give a BIG thank you to Janis Walworth for her dedication, vision and bravery. Thank you for being such an inspirational trans ally! I personally thank her for sharing her story and her pictures with the TransAdvocate audience!

This article is part of an ongoing series exploring trans issues with feminist opinion leaders:
  • Catharine A. MacKinnon: Iconic radical feminist/legal theorist.
  • Judith Butler: Iconic queer feminist/gender theorist.
  • Frances “Poppy” Northcutt: Early trans-inclusive leader in the Southern feminist movement, president of Texas NOW.
  • Janis Walworth: Radical Lesbian who organized the movement that became Camp Trans.
  • Sandy Stone: After surviving an attempted murder by TERFs, wrote a foundational document for trans feminism: The Empire Strikes Back: A Post-Transsexual Manefesto.
  • Robin Tyler: Iconic radical feminist activist, pioneered trans-inclusive Women's Fests, was beaten by TERFs for protecting a trans woman from thier bashing.

  • Radical Women: Conversation with an early trans-inclusive 2nd wave feminist group formed in 1967.
  • Libertarian Feminism: Interview with a trans-inclusive libertarian feminist organization formed in 1973.

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Cristan Williams
Cristan Williams
Cristan Williams is a trans historian and pioneer in addressing the practical needs of the transgender community. She started the first trans homeless shelter in the South and co-founded the first federally funded trans-only homeless program, pioneered affordable healthcare for trans people in the Houston area, won the right for trans people to change their gender on Texas ID prior to surgery, started numerous trans social service programs and founded the Transgender Center as well as the Transgender Archives. Cristan is the editor at the social justice sites TransAdvocate.com and TheTERFs.com, is a long-term member and previous chair of the City of Houston HIV Prevention Planning Group.

25 Comments

  1. […] And the idea that trans folks “envy” cisgender people? Come on. That’s the language of trans-exclusionary radical feminists, and it has no place in the thoughts or writing of any therapist who wants to build therapeutic […]

  2. […] from Michfest after having refused to answer when asked whether she was trans, there has been vocal opposition. Organizers of the event have remained staunch in their […]

  3. […] the “lavender menace” (ie lesbian feminists) within second-wave feminism gave way to sometimes intense debates about the place of transgender women within their ranks, and whether or not to ally with and […]

  4. […] Music Festival, we have to note that it was the Radical Lesbian feminist, Janis Walworth who started the movement to overturn the trans exclusionary policy/intention. Likewise, it’s important to note that […]

  5. […] it shows that Vogel and the “intention” are doing the exact opposite of what the majority (73.1%) of attendees believed should be done – the majority being in favor of trans […]

  6. […] Quoting from The Transadvocate interview of Janis Walworth: […]

  7. Amalthea says:

    Among the comments to this sweeping panoramo of Michfest herstory and the struggle for trans inclusion are suggestions that Lesbian feminists who take exclusionist stances do so because of sexual “jealousy” especially directed at pre-op or non-op trans women out of “penis envy.”

    This is wrong, and very dangerously wrong, for a number of reasons I’d like to sketch out as a Second Wave Lesbian feminist and transsexual woman. Transphobia in Lesbian communities, and Lesbophobia in trans communities, hurt all women and all LGBTQI people. Here I’d like to address some common misconceptions and prejudices about Lesbianism and female sexuality, while also emphasizing that sex/gender is not a binary.

    First, the idea that a pre-op or non-op trans woman would present sexual “competition” to an FAAB Lesbian (or a post-op trans woman also?) reflects some very old prejudices.

    The patriarchal myth for many centuries, apparently still alive and well, is that “real” sex must involve a penis and penetration, so that Lesbian sex doesn’t count, or at best is a makeshift of sorts for women who haven’t tried the “real thing.”

    In fact, for women, the center of sexual pleasure is not the vagina, but the clitoris, an organ which is often thought of as only the external or visible part; but actually is mostly internal and has an overall size comparable to that of the male penis. In another view, the terms “clitoris” and “penis” describe the same organ as it develops mostly as an “innie” or an “outie,” with a spectrum of intermediate forms found in certain types of intersexuality or “Differences of Sexual Development” (DSD). But for now, let’s focus on FAAB Lesbians and the mistaken idea of sexual jealousy directed against pre-op or non-op trans women.

    While Dr. Helen O’Connell, an Australian urologist, is largely responsible for the paradigm shift recognizing the internal clitoris and expanding our understanding of female sexuality, feminists have long emphasized the central role of the clitoris, and also the tendency of patriarchal society and medicine to erase or downplay this organ.

    Ruth Herschberger in 1948 (between the First Wave of feminism in the USA that brought the vote in 1920, and the Second Wave that started in the 1960’s) wrote about the “minor mystery” of the clitoris as the human organ dedicated purely to sexual pleasure, and explored how “Society Writes Biology,” leading toward our understanding that sex, as well as gender, is socially constructed.

    In 1968, Anne Koedt brought the new Second Wave perspective to bear in her essay “The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm,” which addressed the myth that penis-in-vagina sex is necessarily the most pleasurable or satisfying sexual activity for most women, heterosexual or otherwise.

    Today, artist Sophia Wallace is spreading the word with her “Cliteracy, 100 Natural Laws” installation, meant to address “the female body, both cis and trans female.”

    Lesbian feminists have long been explaining that two women who love each other and understand each other’s bodies have no need for patriarchal norms, with any use of devices such as vibrators or strap-ons strictly optional.

    For many Lesbian transsexual women, pre-operative genital sex is very much unwelcome; and many of their potential FAAB Lesbian partners share this view! Surgery removes the impediment, so that an FAAB Lesbian who really wanted to be sexually jealous in a transphobic way would do well to focus on post-op trans women!

    That’s the Feminism 101 part, and now we come to the trans and nonbinary sex/gender part.

    Lesbianism is above all love between women, as opposed to a relationship between genitals that meet certain standards. A relationship between two women, regardless of their genitals, is a real Lesbian relationship.

    As mentioned above, pre-op or non-op status is a dealbreaker as far as genital sex goes for many trans women themselves, as well as many of their potential partners.

    Further, when two Lesbians, one of them pre-op or non-op MTF and the other FAAB, are mutually attracted and give each other enthusiastic consent, often they have in mind something other than penetrative sex. Rather the pre-op or non-op partner’s anatomy is treated not as male but as a variant of female. If the two Lesbian women make this choice on the basis of informed and enthusiastic consent, who is anyone to judge?

    Since sex is nonbinary, there is in fact a continuum between a “clitoris” (mostly internal, or an “innie”) and a “penis” (mostly external, or an “outie”). Some intersexual people, often assigned female at birth, are near the middle of this continuum, where either term might apply.

    Anne Fausto-Sterling has explored the experiences of intersex people through the ages, and shattered the sex binary paradigm as effectively as Lise Meitner and her colleagues split the atom.

    A central issue for intersex people is the right as infants and children not to have medically unnecessary “corrective surgery” done before an age where they can reach an understanding of their own gender identity, weigh possible consequences of surgery, and make an informed choice.

    As Fausto-Sterling puts it, genital surgery often focuses on binary and heterosexist norms: “penetration in the absence of pleasure takes precedence over pleasure in the absence of penetration.”

    This patriarchal giving of priority to penetration rather than pleasure explains why Lesbian sexuality is so often misunderstood and devalued; why both intersexual and transsexual people, although generally having quite different experiences and challenges, can alike benefit from cliteracy (an understanding of female sexuality) in weighing their surgical options; and also why a myth might arise that FAAB Lesbians are sexually jealous of their least likely “competitors” in the trans female community!

    Finally, the idea that FAAB Lesbians feel especially threatened by pre-op or non-op MTF women as “sexual rivals” not only misunderstands the nature of Lesbianism and female sexuality in general, but tends to promote the sexual fetishization of trans people. Knowledge, empathy, and mutual understanding can help us avoid such a trap.

  8. […] From an interview of Janis Walworth by Cristan Williams at TransAdvocate: […]

  9. Robyn Serven says:

    Yeah, my poetry was included in the literature that got dumped into the port-o-potty in ’94.

    • AUnicornsGhost says:

      I’m sorry to hear that. Destroying the creative work of others is such a cowardly thing to do. The people in question here are cowards in every conceivable sense.

  10. Dee Omally says:

    As I peruse these brilliant stories, I have come to the realization that TERFs are really men. I am not joking. I have concluded that these are transmen hating on transwomen, desperately trying to run away from an internalized male identity. Oh sure some probably have vaginas but as I absorb TERF history, peruse the TERF players and their choice of dress, choice of words, expletives and level of vulgarity, we do ourselves a tremendous disservice by continuing to pretend that these are females. To be sure, as I have already said, some no doubt have a vagina, however just as having a penis didn’t alter our female identity, so too a vagina hasn’t altered their male identity.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong and everything good about having a male identity just as there is nothing wrong with having a female identity. There is everything wrong with engaging in civil warfare to destroy trans lives, just as has been occurring for decades. As I learned about the key TERF players…the top 5 that is….the ones hellbent on trans destruction based on outright lies and distortion…as they erroneously and maliciously claim that gender identity = fetish….everything about them points to male identities. Males of course typically prefer females, and TERFs are no exception. Again everything good about being gay….but nothing good about waging war against the innocent.

    I truly mean all I have just said. Stop and examine TERF history….the male haircuts…male hair styles…male aggression…male vulgarity…male jealousy. These ARE NOT females in possession of a female identity!!!!!!!!!!! HELL NO they are not!!!!!! Sounds like an exaggeration? Think and look again. These are male-identified dicks protecting pussy! Those of you who have been immersed in male culture, by coercion of course…know exactly what I am talking about. In the military, if there was “pussy” to be had…..look out! It was animal kingdom time…as the competition for the girl began, not unlike Lions in the Savanna or Rhinos who fought other males for supremacy. This TERF vs trans battle is about supremacy…always has been…since lesbian supremacists, protecting pussy evicted trans females in 1973. Remember that they reserve their harshest condemnation against pre-op trans females…duh…..trans lesbian pre-op females in possession of a real penis…talk about sexual satisfaction compared to some cold-ass vibrator!

    I know I typically do not write like this however I truly believe this is what is going on….the ultimate fight over pussy, pardon the graphic and colorful language. How many TERFs….those who have been instrumental since Raymond in ’80 really appear to be female? Zero….none at all. Anything wrong with that? Nope. Nada. Gender diversity is a beautiful thing, but hate, harassment and propaganda that has cost trans lives is a form of genocide…because genocide begins with de-humanization supported by propaganda followed by mass casualties.

    To say that trans women have not been such casualties would be a false statement, given the historical record. Stop looking and pretending TERFs are female. They are not. These are trans men internalizing their trans phobia who lack the courage to undergo a full transition, just as their very behind-the-trans-back cowardly attacks prove. Nothing about them, no matter their genitalia, points to TERFs having a female identity. The only thing giving clues is their higher pitched voices. Aside from that, nothing. Under no circumstances is their any intent at misogyny….nope. A female is a female is a female, despite genitalia. A male is a male is a male despite genitalia also. Truth be told, most of us are far more feminine than they. Don’t believe anything I have just said without looking it up for yourselves.

    • AUnicornsGhost says:

      I agree about the assertion that most TERFs are self-loathing trans-men. I also think they engage in penis worship, acting as if the penis is some supernatural monster, it endangers all women, it is a symbol of wrong, it is the alpha and omega, the eater of worlds etc. etc. etc.
      If TERFs didn’t talk about rape, and penis terror, and genitalia, then they wouldn’t have anything to say, and wouldn’t that be nice? Perhapse we should use masculine pronouns for TERFs from now on, to help them feel more comfortable with themselves.

      • Dee Omally says:

        Look, I didn’t need so much concurrence at once! 😉 Complimentary sarcasm aside, I truly felt that perhaps I was reaching far too wide in asserting that TERFs truly, in every definable and objective sense, are male-identified (trans-men) females pretending to be lesbian. As I strove to ensure impartiality, I sought and simply could not find any semblance of femininity, except inferring or claiming that they have a V-Jay-Jay and speaking with higher pitched voices.

        Whether trans M or F, we are one and the same, save different sex origins and destination. This is why I will from here on forward refer to them as gender cannibals—-trans men eating their own (family). I have been very clear—-trans anything or any form of gender diversity is, for me a beauty to behold! Lesbian females with short hair, I find are often more beautiful than females with long hair! Although who they are or claim to be has due relevance, it is their virulent and incessant mass defamation of trans females (not trans males…geeze I wonder why not) that is the topic of course. Their marching banner displaying “I don’t like penis since penis had me”, aside, perhaps implying past trauma, who in the F**K is forcing them to have phallic pleasure? No one of course.

        These men, and yes masculine pronouns based on their gender expression is most fitting—these men have either (1) penis envy….forget paper or plastic….its flesh or plastic or (2) typical male aggression to defend “my girl” from competitors….the old “That’s my pussy and I will defend it at all costs”. Only these two make sense. The rest—“guilt by male association” and the “You’re still male because you once were!” make for titillating and provocative speech but are grounded in bigoted opinion, not medical or legal fact. This isn’t misogyny for misogyny would be to continue to refer to these men as women. It is giving TERFs their due, perhaps overdue respect.

    • Pha says:

      What an absolutely stunning reversal.
      Women who are fighting for their space must be men, because women don’t fight.
      That’s just amazing.

      • AUnicornsGhost says:

        I wouldn’t know, as that was your assertion and not mine. I was more suggesting that their outright hatred of men, and transwomen who they perceive as men is the result of revulsion at some aspect of their own personal identity. Like the head of some anti-gay mega church who smokes meth and blows guys when nobody’s looking.

    • Amalthea says:

      As a Second Wave feminist who happens also to be transsexual, I’d like respectfully to express a different viewpoint to advance our common goal of inclusion, so that we can be brought together on the right side of herstory.

      First, a cardinal rule for me is that a Lesbian feminist, transsexual or otherwise, doesn’t support the misgendering of another Lesbian feminist (or anyone else), be it Beth Elliott in 1973, Sandy Stone in 1977, Nancy Jean Burkholder in 1991 — or Sheila Jeffreys in 2014, whose preferred pronouns, like mine, I can rather confidently state as she/her/hers.

      Secondly, a woman (FAAB, trans, intersex, or whatever) has the right to the whole continuum of gender expression, from diesel dyke to high femme. As something of an androgynous earth mother femme, I affirm that a butch who has courageously survived through 70 or 80 years of patriarchy is not one whit less of a woman or Lesbian than I am. Something that Lisa Vogel now has absolutely right: “gender policing” has no place on the Land, or in the greater country of feminism and sisterhood. And that goes for women such as Janice Raymond and Sheila Jeffreys who may disagree with us on certain feminist concepts and issues.

      Third, a bit more than 40 years of experience have taught me that women of various orientations, gender presentations, and schools of feminism can take all kinds of positions on transsexual issues. Around 1974, I met Janice Raymond, who came across as a scholarly feminist woman, which would also be a good description for the women at about that time who asked me to stop volunteering at a university Women’s Center because of my transsexualism. Not long after, the issue was raised in a small Lesbian theater group which decided that I should stay. As to why any woman involved in either group took the position she did, you would have to ask her.

      Fourth, the idea that FAAB Lesbian feminists take exclusionist stances out of sexual jealousy seems to me both wrong and disastrously counterproductive for all women, trans or otherwise! There are basic issues here concerning Lesbianism and female sexuality in general, as well as transsexualism, that are so important that I’ll address them in another comment.

      Finally, while some advocates of trans exclusion try to psychologize us at great length, I urge that we follow some good advice from Queen Elizabeth I of England, a woman possibly a Lesbian and/or FAAB intersexual: “I have no desire to make windows into [wo]men’s souls.” Let us respectfully address arguments and seek dialogue in a spirit of truth, reconciliation, and sisterhood.

  11. friday jones says:

    The WBW policy was truly, at its heart, inspired by anti-Butch misogyny. After all, Ms. Burkholder was turned in to the festival organizers not because she failed a panty check, she was, after all, post-op at the time. Her official documents were all in line with her true identity as a woman.

    So the only reason that some woman at the bonfire by the gate called in a Fest organizer was that she’d gotten read as trans. But any of the things that could have gotten her read as trans, from voice to mannerisms to body morphology, could have just as readily been part of a cis butch woman’s presentation.

    Cis butch women get read as trans women all the time, like Khadijah Farmer did. A woman like Khadijah Farmer could quite readily have fallen afoul of the exact same scenario that Ms. Burkholder did. At the very least she would have been interrogated as a possible other-than-woman person.

    So not only is Lisa Vogel a repugnant transphobe, she’s also as butchphobic as hell. What a misogynistic piece of work. Like most Second Wavers, if a woman isn’t some Earth Mother cis woman in homespun, or a FAAB androgyne with a university degree, Vogel is instantly suspicious of and hostile to her.

    • Amalthea says:

      Lisa Vogel is in my view an amazing woman who unfortunately chose in the 1970’s to follow some repugnant policies which she has not yet entirely escaped, with trans women as the target and other women who may for various reasons (ranging from body profiling to a “Butch” identity or presentation) become collateral damage.

      Since a number of women at Michfest and on various web forums are both totally Butch-identified and committed to excluding trans women, the two things are separate, although “mistaken identity” is possible and known to happen. If Nancy Jean Burkholder had in 1991 (in an alternative universe) shown those Michfest security people that she was FAAB (Female Assigned At Birth), I’m sure they would have left her to party away however she liked — butch, femme, or whatever.

      If I can do this link correctly, here’s a first-person perspective on some of these issues: Inclusion from MY Butch Dyke Perspective.

      • Amalthea says:

        Sorry my coding for the link apparently didn’t take, but Googling “Inclusion from MY Butch Dyke Perspective” leads right to this article by Zeph Fish.

      • friday jones says:

        How, pray tell, can a woman prove that she is FAAB at the Michfest gate? I’m not FAAB, but I’ve had a vagina for 29 years. Maybe women are expected to whip out a speculum so the Fest security can check for a cervix? Oh yeah, some FAAB women no longer have a cervix.

        Lisa Vogel is, in my view, an amazing jackass. The letter to Olivia that she co-signed is absolute proof of that.

  12. Evie Ovalle says:

    This is all VERY interesting and I’m learning so much about the MWMF trans-exclusive policy I hadn’t known before — for example, that there were cis lesbian supporters who jumped on the bandwagon as immediately as the day after Nancy was asked to leave the fest! Someone should really make a documentary film about all this and interview all these people involved.

  13. Zoey Tur says:

    Sorry I missed the fun.

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