The Real Name of the Real Game: Ten Years Ago
March 13, 2011
March 15, 2011

If You Dig Michfest, You’re NOT a Trans Ally

I recently had a discussion with a person with cisgender privledge about Michfest. I thought feminist/POC theory taught rather early on that a person who isn’t in the oppressed category doesn’t get to define if they are in fact, an ally. If you support Michfest, you’re NOT a Trans ally. This is what I said:

“No, we don’t share similar viewpoints on Michfest. I wouldn’t go to Hammerfest, no matter how ‘good’ or how much of a “safe space” it created for me. This isn’t just about exclusion, it’s about belief. A belief that comes out of the work of Raymond and Daly. It’s not just some innocuous thing. “Technology on the Social and Ethical Aspects of Transsexual Surgery, for the US Government” had a devastating effect on transsexuals that is still felt today.

If you support Michfest, you aren’t an ally. And you don’t get to decide if you’re an ally or not. That’s a game the oppressor plays.

As far as those words coming out of my mouth, if you heard that I attended a Hammerfest, would you NOT think I were an ignorant bigot? I would be rightfully indicted by attendance.”

Marti Abernathey
Marti Abernathey

Marti Abernathey is the founder of the Transadvocate and the previous managing editor.

Abernathey has worn many different hats, including that of podcaster, activist, and radiologic technologist.

She’s been a part of various internet radio ventures such as TSR Live!, The T-Party, and The Radical Trannies, TransFM, and Sodium Pentathol Sunday.

As an advocate she’s previously been involved with the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance, Rock Indiana Campaign for Equality, and the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition. She’s taken vital roles as a grass roots community organizer in The Indianapolis Tax Day Protest (2003), The Indy Pride HRC Protest (2004), Transgender Day of Remembrance (2004), Indiana’s Witch Hunt (2005), and the Rally At The Statehouse (the largest ever GLBT protest in Indiana – 3/2005).

In 2008 she was a delegate from Indiana to the Democratic National Convention and a member of Barack Obama’s LGBT Steering and Policy Committee.

  • BigD

    I am sorry to say, it is so much more complicated than this. As I myself identify outside of the binary, I was coerced by friends and fam to attend Michfest for many years. As I approach my date of an identity-related surgery I decided to go. If anything to make observations, visit friends in transcamp, and definitely be a part of some activism. I dig michfest and am utterly confused and disappointed in it as well. When I identified as a young dyke, I often prayed for a place that was all “women”. A place where I could get away from people who scared me, taunted me, etc. As I grew into queerhood I no longer longed for that type of place. Now the place I long for the queering of minds. I think that if Michfest wants to own it’s exclusivity it needs to state in its policy exactly what the organizers are doing. The policy currently reads ” women born women” it should read “people who are identified as women at birth”. If people need and rely on this space to feed them and provide safety and nourishment to an oppressed population than I would appreciate it if they owned their exclusivity and stopped bullshitting everyone.

  • I wouldn’t go either Marti.
    I remember what these shits did to Sandy Stone, a friend of mine. The shit they raised pretty much killed Olivia Records.

    But more over there is a class aspect.

    If I had the money to rent a hotel room and go to SXSW, I might, it would cost the same amount of money.

    But to go and sleep on the ground for all that money plus the drive.

    I don’t freaking think so. I’d rather take the money and my current Martin to the next Guitar show and get a nicer instrument.

    There is a kind of class privilege in having the money to go to an event like that.

    As for the the radicalness of these so called “radical feminists”… I’d rather see James McMurty, or Steve Earle.

    My partner and I go to concerts at this local venue. We are among the old folks who go there often time 40 years older than the people on the floor. But the music is good and who needs the bad attitudes.

    So this year I am continuing my perfect record of boycotting MWMF. Of course doing that is easy since I have no desire to go.

    • Kat

      For the money I’d spend on going to the Michigan Transphobia Festival, I can go to 30-40 minor league baseball games in the area where I live.

      No, those aren’t bastions of feminism by any means, but I’m spending my money locally in venues where people don’t care who I am – and one of the ballparks close to me was built as a WPA project. Spending $7.00 (several times over the course of a summer) to keep that venue up and running is far more useful than going to Michfest would be even if it wasn’t transphobic (sadly, even w/o a reputation for transphobia the neo-corporate SXSW is equally useless – except for the fact that its in Austin.)

      • Actually we’re more likely to go to the Austin Book Fair this fall. Mostly though I was trying to make the point that there are festivals where TS/TG folks don’t have to put up with bigotry.

        I find the counter-culture venues easier to take than the lesbian or gay ones.

        • Angela Bridgman

          Way true. And Austin is FULL of counter-culture. One of the things that makes Austin great!

          • Oh, good term “counter-culture”. I’ve been writing a lot about the need to cut some ties with the G/L politics and get more involved in the general movement. I used to be a left wing hippie and I’ve started seeing how valuable a place the counter-culture is once again.

            Tina and I visited Austin last December for a show at the Branton. We were really taken by the fact that Austin still has a “Women’s Bookstore” (one of the last in the country) as well as an anarchist bookstore.

            The place is less plastic than Dallas.

            One of the big surprises about moving to Dallas has been feeling a lot less ghettoized than I did in SF/LA.

            Cheaper housing makes living a bit easier. And there is more of an actual counter culture here than there is in NY/SF/LA due to housing cost being so expensive there.

            I write a lot about the counter-culture and other movements, I’ve got to start using that term.

            Boycotting the MWMF since 1976

        • Kat

          I’m not sure when it is this year, but if you’re inclined toward sci-fi, give ArmadilloCon a whirl. I was on its parent organization’s BoD for a few years back in the 1990s and am still friends with a number of its key players.

          • I can’t afford to do both and I’m not all that much of a SF fan. I’d like to do a book Fair because I have a couple of books in the works one of which is the obligatory memoir, as much left wing as transsexual of what it was like to go through the 60s and 70s.

      • Angela Bridgman

        Agree with you there! I lived in Austin for 10 years…the last five of them were in the 2000’s…I moved BACK to austin, after having left in 1989 when I graduated high school. Used to be, back then…there was no SXSW…it was Austin Aqua Fest.
        Well, when I moved back, there was no more austin Aqua Fest…there was SXSW. and I agree…it’s useless…and it just screws up traffic and venues all over town. But the saving grace is that it is in the most awesome city in the world…Austin!
        God I wish I could go back!

      • Anonymous

        Season tickets for the AAA team in my area cost about what ones for that ball of failure do.

  • amanda

    Please check out Yes, Michfest is not perfect, far from it, but there are people trying to change things.

    I’ve been a fest worker and attendee for many years, and I want the ways that Michfest has bettered my life to be completely open to all women. One day, that will happen – it’s happening already.


    • Anonymous

      I’m not denying that people are trying to change things. Not even that there aren’t good people at Michfest. My point is more that until Michfest changes its policy, attending is supporting their policy.

    • Kathleen

      MichFest is a business. It was, the first year a nonprofit. Then it was incorporated as a very much for profit business that the owner makes a very large profit from.

      This whole mystique of it being something else and convincing people to work for them for nothing – (while discrimination for decades) is just marketing.

      Who would ever say – I’m going to keep buying from Target even though they won’t let trans women in the door? Who would ever say – I’m going to keep giving them money while we ask them nicely over several decades to stop discriminating against say……lesbians?

      The best way to change them is to threaten their bottom line – asking a bigot nicely to stop being a bigot while you hand them a thousand dollars no matter what they do is kinda counterproductive.

      Oh, yes, yes, we’re very willing to dialog on this sometime – thanks for the cash!

      • Kat

        Screw MichFest.

        The Midwest League openers are less than two weeks away.

  • I once lost a friend over Michfest. Both of us are cis. I asked her why she wanted to go to an event with that much hate on. She decided I was harshing her mellow too much and that was it. And I wasn’t screaming at her or accusing her. The double irony is that she and I are both bisexual, and she couldn’t even realize that Michigan’s not so keen on bi women, either.

    • Marti Abernathey

      Well I’d make a distinction between ally and friend. I have acquaintences that aren’t allies, but most of my friends are allies.

    • Kat

      That’s the real irony.

      While the transphobia among gays is more obvious, more intense and does more damage to individuals than the bi-phobia, the impression I’ve gotten is that bi-phobia is actually more prevalent.

      I consider those gays who do not want us in the LGB movement transphobic, period. But, there are some among those who genuninely accept that transsexulity exists; they just don’t see it as connected to LGB. On the other hand, I do get the impression that many – maybe even most – in ‘LG(B)’ don’t even view bi as legitimate.

      Yet, “bisexuality” is always included in the definition of “sexual orientation.” It probably was not intended as such, but this was a good divide-and-conquer strategy by the corporate gays. If bisexuals were as hardwired out of anti-discrimination laws as we usually are, B & T would have had more incentive to band together to overthrow the HRC-types.