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August 6, 2014
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August 11, 2014

National justice orgs say: End trans exclusion policy at Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival

By Cristan Williams
@cristanwilliams

 

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) has joined the Gay & Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the Nation Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and several other social justice organizations in petitioning that the trans exclusionary policy of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (MWMF) end. In recent years, the MWMF trans exclusionary policy has been rebranded as merely a trans exclusionary “intention.” In the face of MWMF’s continued anti trans policy intention, the nation’s leading equality organizations have joined Equality Michigan in petitioning the festival to end its decades of prominent discrimination.

Historical Context:

  • MWMF TERFs organizers supported the targeting of a Radical Feminist, Lesbian-separatist  music collective for being trans-inclusive and led to armed TERFs threatening the life of a trans woman.
  • Lisa Vogel’s fist inspired trans-inclusive Women’s Music Festivals
  • MWMF violence led to the creation of Camp Trans while Leather Dykes and the Lesbian Avengers offered body guard protection for the trans women.

The MWMF’s ties to anti-trans oppression run deep. In the 1970s, MWMF founder and director, Lisa Vogel, was inspired to create a women’s festival when she learned about a California lesbian women’s music collective named Olivia Records. However, through the efforts of Janice “all-transsexuals-rape-women” Raymond, Vogel was shocked to learn that the Olivia women’s music collective was trans-inclusive. Vogel and other Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) attached to the MWMF collective identified Sandy Stone as a trans women and proceeded to out her.

Sandy Stone at Olivia Records

TERFs threatened Olivia Records with destruction unless Olivia vote to become a trans-exclusionary lesbian collective. Olivia took a vote and, choosing to stand with Stone against transmisogyny, decided to remain a trans-inclusive organization. Olivia continued to stand with Stone until they began getting death threats and the entire collective was at risk of being financially ruined. Knowing that the TERF boycott would bring an end to the lesbian feminist music group, Stone chose to leave the collective.

It wouldn’t take very much at all to sink us. Our financial situation was okay, but precarious. We had a very big accounts receivable, much, much higher than a company should have had, dangerously high because we wanted to support our distribution system and the women in it, and that meant because they were all living financially close to the line themselves – many of them – that they were slow in paying. And we wanted to support them in that as best we could, and so we ran a high receivable. Anything that interrupted out cash flow could have been disastrous. And when the boycott began to be threatened, we had to sit down and do some serious thinking. And there was a point at which the collective said, “Sandy, the reality of the situation is that is you don’t leave, there’s real danger.” And so I left. – Sandy Stone

Stone wound up being maligned in Janice Raymond’s infamous TERF bible, The Transsexual Empire, The Making of the She-male. Afterwards, Vogel and her TERF crew made trans-exclusion part of the fabric of the MWMF. This painful history has continued to this day.

Standard TERF hate against Sandy Stone published in Sister, 1977

While many have matured in their understanding of the trans experience, Vogel has chosen to institutionalize her 1970s-era exclusionary ideology. In a letter published in a 1977 edition of Sister, Vogel and other then-TERFs such as Sue Hyde and Max Feldman were unified in their anti-trans ideology. However, Feldman later came out as trans and in a statement to the TransAdvocate, Hyde wrote:

It’s a personal humiliation to me that I signed such a letter, driven by ignorance and the identity politics of the time. I am deeply regretful and sorry for my participation in the 1977 defaming of Sandy Stone and all trans people. Nothing can make up for that kind of discrimination.

Numerous social justice organizations since have stepped forward to ask that the MWMF bring an end to their history as a trans-exclusionary event.

Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force recently said:

As an organization with a core value of inclusiveness, the Task Force believes that the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival’s ‘womyn born womyn’ intention, to the exclusion of transgender women, must end. It also runs at variance with welcoming and respecting the reality of all women’s lives. We agree with our partners at Equality Michigan and the many activists both inside and outside the festival who have raised this important issue for over two decades. As it approaches its 40th year, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival must include and welcome transgender women. It’s past time for a change in both intention and practice at the Festival, as a matter of love, compassion and radical welcome embraced by the Task Force and countless others.

Sharon Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition said:

NBJC joins with Equality Michigan and the host of other advocacy organizations calling on the organizers of MWMF to immediately end their policy of not welcoming transgender women. This unjust policy only perpetuates hate and stigma, and has no place in a space meant to empower women. Our transgender sisters are simply women and deserve to be treated as such. It is baffling that at MWMF — an event organized by and built exclusively for women — imposes such blatant discrimination against one of the most marginalized groups of women in our society. NBJC urges its entire constituency and all supporters to sign the Equality Michigan petition and show the organizers of MWMF that no form of discrimination against our transgender sisters is acceptable in 2014.

Kate Kendell, Executive Director of the Nation Center for Lesbian Rights said:

At NCLR, we have long fought for freedom of LGBT people to live authentic lives from the demands of hetero and gender norms. Transgender issues and identity are an intrinsic part of the struggle to be free from homophobia and misogyny, policing gender is as much an insult to our humanity as policing sexual orientation.

In a post, HRC wrote:

Trans women and ciswomen (another word for non-trans women) suffer under the same patriarchal oppression, similarly restrictive ideas of what it means to be a woman, and the same structural barriers that deny women control of their own lives and bodies. The festival attempts to provide a refuge from this; to exclude some women from this refuge is simply inexcusable.

Other social justice organizations like Equality FederationSecular Woman, Michigan’s Affirmations Community Center and the TransAdvocate itself have signed onto the petition.

Cassandrea Varner, a Director at Affirmations said, “It is important for us to join with this effort because this has been an issue for several years and it would be a disservice if we didn’t support the effort to end the discrimination of trans women at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. We owe it to ourselves and our community.” Kim Rippere, President of Secular Woman said, “Changing your policy to allow every woman to participate in your festival will boldly announce your commitment to ending the discrimination of women; your inclusive perspective; and your willingness to grow, learn, and take corrective action.

Gender Identity Watch, a TERF group who supports a continuation of MWMF’s trans exclusionary history, claimed that these social justice groups were anti-lesbian and directed them to read a “grass roots” booklet that is being distributed at Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival this year. Here are some quotes from this MWMF booklet:

Radical Feminists NEVER agree to the female-hating trans cult con that men could be women or Lesbians. (We also do not accept “‘trans-paraplegic” able-bodied men who demand to be accepted as paraplegic Lesbians.) This includes not supporting these men appropriating our identity by calling them “transfolk” or “transwomen” or any other terms that give credence to the idea that they are somehow more special than other misogynist female impersonators. Radical Feminists never call men “women” of any kind or “she” or “her,” or call women “men.” – p 12

Transgender politics impact all women because we are coerced into accepting something that is not real, but that has real consequences in our abilities to organize away from men. If even one man, dressed as a woman comes into our women-only spaces, the whole experience of that space is transformed by his violent presence… Transactivism impacts women’s ability to unify and show solidarity even when there are no “trans” people present. Just the idea of “transgender rights” as a legitimate front for social change is harmful to women’s solidarity and movement. It is so sad and infuriating, that even lesbians are calling other lesbians “hateful” if they question the good of transgenderism. – p 31

A man demanding to be seen as anything other than a man is oppressing the woman he is talking to when she resists or questions his “gender identity.” Transgenderism is an oppressive ideology that hurts girls and women the most because it does not allow us to speak in our own terms about ourselves or about male violence and dominance in our lives. Women do not oppress men (“trans women” are men) because we are not in positions of gender power and privilege in society. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary online defines the word “oppression” to be a : unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power b : something that oppresses especially in being an unjust or excessive exercise of power. – p 32

There is no such thing as “trans”, other than it exists as a social phenomena that intentionally or unintentionally, promotes male rule of our lives and separates us from our connection to ourselves and the laws of nature. – p 33

If you would like to add your name to the petition requesting that MWMF end their decades of exclusion, you may do so here:

Organizations wishing to stand with Equality Michigan in their call end the decades of discrimination can do so here.

UPDATES:

  • 8/9/14, 6 am: Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents signs the petition
  • 8/8/14, 7 pm: The Bilerico Project signs the petition
  • 8/8/14, 2 pm: BiNet USA signs onto the petition
  • 8/8/14, 10 am: GLAAD and Antigone Rising sign the petition.

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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.
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  • tsxtina says:
    August 19, 2014 at 3:37 am

    “Dee Omally, do you just stroke your penis all night thinking of acronyms? You are ridiculous.”

    Why have a discussion when attacking a salient messenger will suffice. It demonstrates what I write about below:

    ***”Effectiveness against those who espouse exclusion is never measured by the soothing nocturnal chirping of crickets, but by the foul nocturnal emissions emitting from the pie-holes of those whose toes needed to be flattened.

    Knowing not when to concede defeat, such vitriolic bipeds, lacking commensurate skills of intelligence, resort tot the one primordial instinct that ultimately fails all bullies: unbridled emotion.”***—Dee Omally

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  • LilithLovesWomyn

    Please do not present the “grassroots booklet” you quoted from at the end of the article as something that was widely (if at all) distributed at the festival, and especially as something promoted by the festival or even most of the women attending. I didn’t see or hear any evidence of it and wouldn’t have promoted it if I had come across it, and I stand firmly with the intention of the festival. Just as not all trans women are opposed to the intention of the festival, not all intention supporters are anti-trans (in fact, I would argue that very few, if any, are). It is very hard, however, to continue to support trans women’s rights in the world at large when something as vital to my survival as MWMF is consistently being threatened by the actions of some trans activists.

    • AUnicornsGhost

      I agree that the MWMF should have the right to exclude transwomen, just as the Klan has the right to exclude blacks, or the masons exclude women. In the least, it reveals their true inclinations. But I also feel deeply for the people being excluded. The notion that these people are infiltrators with secret agendas and nefarious intentions is ridiculous, invalid and paranoid. These are people who actually care enough about women, women’s issues, and the rights of lesbians to participate in something as positively awful sounding as the Michigan wymens music festival. No offense to you or anyone else but I could not think of a worse use of my time then sitting around in the woods with a bunch of people who are so obsessed with gender/sex that they literally resort to self segregation over it. Oh and forty five hours of “workshops”. No thanks.

      On an off note I was offered the opportunity to join an influential fraternity as a legacy, they didn’t care about my gender expression, but they do exclude genetically born women, so I said no thanks, because I can not in good conscience belong to a sexist organisation. I have a little more respect for inclusiveness then some others I guess.

      trans* activists are not threatening the existence of the festival, just arguing against standards they personally view as hurtful. That’s as much their right as it is the right of lesbians to argue against standards that they view as hurtful.
      Although the idea, presented in the given literature, that Transwomen bear a “violent energy” is not only extremely trans-phobic, but outright sexist.

      Do you object to the presence of FtM trans people at the festival as well? No judgment or anything, I am just very curious about the reasonable feminist perspective on FtM trans people, and you don’t sound exactly like a foaming at the mouth TERF.

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  • tsxtina

    zzzzzzzzzz snore zzzzzzzzzzzzz

    • 😛 There’s always books on tape for dummies!

      • tsxtina

        Dee Omally, do you just stroke your penis all night thinking of acronyms? You are ridiculous.

  • WHAT UMBRELLA?

    Am I missing more than just a few screws 😉 ? As I absorb that which females who desire gender segregated spaces espouse as their tenets, I find myself asking: does the T in TERF represent shorthand for Trans|vestite or Trans|gender? What do they mean by (T)ranswoman or trans? What do we mean by (T)ranswoman or (T)rans? Why does it matter you don’t say? Everything. Being human, truth be told we are all under a gender “umbrella” (slight exaggeration but not by much). The (T) umbrella is a “safe zone” concept and cute, but it is an “absorb and dilute” homogeneous destructive-to-transgender-equality concept. In fact, when I first heard about it, I remember my instinctive thought: “If this umbrella concept is being sold as justification for a transition (MtF/FtM) package, we are all doomed.” By doomed I refer to the absurd oxymoron notion that going from here (M) to here (F) is the same as going from here (M) to (umbrella F). Umbrella F = (T)ransvestite and (T)ransgender.

    I am very glad that the RuPaul fiasco (still underway until he apologizes) happened. Until March 2014, I was completely and utterly unaware of the extent of a transvestite cult(ure). I had heard that a man named RuPaul had a drag show, but having had no interest in doing drag or a gay history, I put than under the “interesting but not for me” column. I learned about prominent (and famous) drag performers and how they called themselves “she” even when off the drag stage. I learned that some drag performers truly were beautiful, that they proudly spoke in deep voices, and that they were proud to be called tra*nny and shem*le, labels which precisely speak of their dual-gender reality. I also learned that some were extremely vulgar and obscene, and how they gave only destructive value to the drag culture. I thought back about the “trans umbrella”, and said “If these dual-gender male/female performers truly and seriously claim to be (T)ransgender and expect that trans equality includes these (G) men, we are doomed.”

    Both the Trans Umbrella concept and the drag males = females concept exemplify the “destruction by absorption” strategy used since time immemorial to defeat a foe. Let’s never fool ourselves—- every equality struggle, no matter the struggle, includes those opposed that can only be described as dark, sinister, stealthy and even lethal opponents, and undoubtedly exist even now. Our US Constitution is promulgated on God-given and inalienable rights of ALL citizens, and yet since the genesis of our nation, such rights have had to be fought for. Women, blacks, browns, transwomen, gay, transmen…..we’re not fighting for something special, we’re fighting for something promised but not yet delivered.

    THE FALLACY OF “PRIVATE’

    If the Women’s Music Festival’s definition of Trans = Transvestite, they have my complete and ardent support. If the Women’s Music Festival’s definition of Trans = Transgender females (verifiable by state-issued ID), then I continue to vehemently oppose ALL females who continue to deny the undeniable. Discrimination, vulgarity, hating, loathing, despising, exclusion are all absolutely legal concepts. Unless they rise to the minimum level of a disturbance, one is free to be humanly frail. Everything except government property is privately owned (public lands are under government supervision). Every business, every club, every mall, venue for the MWMF–all privately owned. Ownership entitles the owner(s) to private gain $, but never to public offense. Argue that it does until your venting is over, but nothing changes. Discriminating against others just like you (humans), based on who they are (race, color, creed, sex, etc.) is a public offense that violates the Supreme Law of the American land: none other than the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment “equal protection” clause. Argue that it doesn’t until venting is over again, and the 14th Amendment remains ratified, not repealed.

    TAKE THIS NOTICE, AND WEAR IT

    Lost on the MWMF is all that I have just said, long ago settled as fact by the US Supreme Court in case law history, and is not a new *thought bubble* opinion. I hereby put TERFs of all stripes, including the TERF-sponsored MWMF “privately owned but open to the public” event on notice: you are all operating outside of the law, US Constitutional law, not unlike state governments who, by prohibiting gay marriage were also operating outside of the law. What your movement against 14th Amendment equality has done for (40) years now amounts to nothing less than extrajudicial convictions of the innocent: transfemales and vicariously transmales. No one deserves to be convicted before a trial, let alone a crime or civil tort. You have waged a war-by-psychological torment ever since some lesbians, emboldened by newly-found power (1973), became intoxicated with power and discarded the name tag of “oppressed by patriarchy” to “oppressors of gender”. With balls bigger than planets, you dared to behave like men and commenced a 40-years long campaign against other females, guilty of nothing but being “different”, forgetting how “different” you yourselves are, merely for being gay.

    The war goes on doesn’t it? The convictions before the crime & trial continue don’t they? Dr. Paul McHugh and Sheila Jeffreys, 4-star generals in the TERF army keep leading this war don’t they? I know many read this, on both sides of this conflict and this is good. But when 4-star general Jeffreys marches forth high on her horse, with a spear on her right hand targeted at the backs of many, with a book on her left destined to be blessed by the blood of more transfemales it is no time for a siesta. For those of us who have traded in fear for experience, who have shed a translucent epidermis for rhino skin, it is time to not ask, but order you to stop. You may not realize it, and clearly you don’t, but the choice not to believe this truth is for yours alone to make: it took over a century+ for America to treat LGB citizens as citizens and gay marriage now happens. It has taken America even longer to treat a female like a female, and now 2014 happened, and is still happening. Remember as your campaign wages on with increasingly futile gains: the EMPEROR was NAKED then, and remains NAKED now.

    • ADDED to the “FALLACY OF PRIVATE: Private ownership that opens private property to public participation (shopping, entertainment, festivals, etc.) notwithstanding some religious exemptions, must abide by discriminatory laws & statutes.

      • Although the US Constitution + amendments are directed at government bodies, namely in specified prohibitions, it affirms the rights of private citizens as well. It would be very naive to pretend not to know that government is us, and we are government. Although it clearly specified that the role of federal government is never to advocate for or prohibit any faith worship, it was the invocation of a force greater than man, “God” on (5) different occasions in the Declaration of American Independence that set a “spirit of the law” background for the legalism of the law that was to follow: the Constitution.

        No alphanumeric symbol can ever encompass every deed, intent, prohibition or definition. The chronological and malleable progression of human history simply makes that not possible, and therefore the “living element” of the US Constitution, so long as it remains, will require that a body of men (Supreme Court) interpret what was or is meant by constitutional law. These esteemed men and women arrive at case law conclusions that are far more than legalistic interpretation. Personal opinion, legal statutes, intent of such statutes, case history, and very often the “spirit of the law” are all used to arrive at conclusions that will impact millions. No body of government will stand by and allow for another spirit to grow: the spirit of exclusion, even at an event such as a music festival. Such a spirit is irrevocably antithetical to the very tenets of our nation.

        Precisely because we are a nation made up of 50 nation-states, state sovereignty dictates that such nation states can introduce micro statutes tailor-made to local and state interests. When such statutes run afoul of individual sovereignty that is not unlawful or attempt to legislate discrimination (AZ), then intervention by higher authority becomes necessary (Supreme Court). Harassment on a massive scale for just short of 1/2 a century on others merely for exercising a legal right to transition has and will continue to result in a loss of life to trans women. Psychological torment is never conducive to the self preservation of life, no matter the target. Massive defamation of an entire group of people, particularly one that spans over (4) decades, does also not the saving-of-lives make. Such defamation is coal for a phobic fire, no matter the target. The feeding of this lethal mindset is now being seen for what it is. TERFs will remain undeterred, for there is no antidote for a bigoted heart, save it begins from the very heart in which it resides.

        If this year (2014) has accomplished anything for we who are female with a trans history, it is that the proverbial log has been lifted, only to reveal TERFs scurrying about looking for a new place to hide. TERFs don’t realize it for anger + hate = a blinding rage, but they are surrounded on all sides. With the federal government on the east, history on the west, LGB allies on the north and we the “fringe” on the south, there is no longer any where else to hide. This isn’t just me saying it, it is history saying it. Many issues can be denied, refuted, or mocked, but far greater than the force of water is the force of history itself. We share the TERF abhorrence of violence and oppression and the option to remain in head-on conflict with us is now off of the table. The only option left is to join forces and fight ALL violence and oppression. Lets all join hands and as females introduce the world to a new acronym: TIRF (Trans Inclusive Radical Feminists). Although I will not make the cut for not being radical enough ;), turning enemies into friends remains a passion of mine. 🙂

      • “Although the US Constitution + amendments are directed at government bodies, namely in specified prohibitions, it affirms the rights of private citizens as well.”

        But not (with the exception of the right not to be sold into slavery) the rights of one private citizen/entity against another.

    • “Discriminating against others just like you (humans), based on who they are (race, color, creed, sex, etc.) is a public offense that violates the Supreme Law of the American land: none other than the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment “equal protection” clause.”

      Unfortunately, insofar as the 14th Amendment is concerned, that is only true as to action by a governmental entity.

      Without federal, state and local statutes mandating principles of non-discrimination, the nation would be as the Ayn Rand addicts want it to be.

      • “Although the US Constitution + amendments are directed at government bodies….”

        Precisely…should have read “…is a public offense that violates the [spirit of the law] as intended by the Supreme which of course must be supported by the letter of the law. So, too the 1964 Civil Rights Act….redundancy or was it to further specify?

    • AUnicornsGhost

      Do you know what I see as a large problem within the Transgender community? The idea that not taking part in surgery makes ones feelings invalid. “Transvestites” are transgender people to, and comparing them to drag queens is pretty negative. Drag is a type of performance art, it involves the dawning of costume wear, and the assuming of a faux persona for entertainment value. If one feels female, or feminine to some degree, and dawns clothing traditionally associated with women to express and explore this, they are by no means putting on a performance, they are legitimately transgender. I would support anyone’s right to reassignment surgery, freedom of ones body is essential, but I myself have always felt that my body is perfect, I have no need to conform more closely to societies standards of what constitutes femaleness. After all society is habitually wrong, and we are discussing the same society that judged me to begin with, so trusting its conceptions of what’s appropriate would be extremely foolish. In summation, I feel as though my body is fine, it is a feminine vessel all on its own, and it is actually society that is in need of extensive surgery. I feel that to compare such a position to Drag (which I reiterate, is a preforming art), is denigrating to me and others like me who do not fit in to the rigid system of gender rolls that society demands upon us, and refuse to change our essential selves for the sake of conforming to pre-prescribed notions about how we are aloud to feel about our bodies.

      Check out this interview with Judith Butler, who is an actual real feminist. She really hits the nail on the head, again and again and again.

      Hope I didn’t offend, just trying to express.

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  • juli

    Thank you. Very informative article!

    • LilithLovesWomyn

      Very biased and incomplete article. Please seek out more balanced perspectives before making any judgments.

  • “It’s a personal humiliation to me that I signed such a letter, driven by ignorance and the identity politics of the time. I am deeply regretful and sorry for my participation in the 1977 defaming of Sandy Stone and all trans people. Nothing can make up for that kind of discrimination.”

    Yes, but I still want to know: What PRICE has Hyde ever paid for what she did? When last I checked, its NONE. Is she now willing to cough up any of the money she’s made in the years since – in LGB( ) advocacy positions that no trans people likely ever even had the opportunity to apply for, much less actually be considered for – to fund jobs with her decades-long employer for trans women who were purposely excluded from any employment opportunity within Gay, Inc. because of demands made that Gay, Inc. actually take trans issues seriously?

    Hyde’s ‘apology’ came in comment to a TransAdvocate. At the very least, until she trumpets her apology – along with an explicit allocution as to what the apology is for – on the front page of her decades-long employer’s website, she’s the civil law counterpart to Ray Rice’s criminal actions – where Rice abused a woman physically, Hyde encouraged – demanded – the economic abuse of a woman.

    Sick as it is, Rice did get some suspension.

    I ask again: What price has the woman who is allowed, and has been for decades, to earn a living in a line of work that few trans women are ever considered for and next-to-none are allowed to actually be employed in – a line of work which purports to be one of advocacy for trans people along with LGBs – ever paid?

    • Sami

      It’s the Gloria Steinhem approach. You can spend decades attacking us and opposing our equality, but the moment you take five seconds to type out an “I didn’t mean it and I’m totes sorry” you instantly become a valuable ally and any trans person who expects you to actually lift a finger to help us or utter a single word in opposition to the transphobes you spent so long vocally supporting is being overdemanding and unforgiving.

      • Yes. The people who actually forced Gay, Inc. to address trans issues (and proved that Gay, Inc. was, more often than not, lying about having addressed them at all) have been branded as – well, whatever phraseology Mara Keisling might be using in her perpetual whisper campaign during any given week – while those who sat on the sidelines or actually worked against their own people’s interests get to live off of the golden slop in the Gay, Inc. trough.