The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival — popularly known as MichFest — is one of the oldest ongoing music events in the country. Founded in 1976 as a women-only camping and entertainment event, it has been in the same location since 1982, drawing thousands of women each year. Sadly, it is also driven by what founder and organizer Lisa Vogel refers to as “The Intention.” This policy declares that only “womyn born womyn” are allowed to attend, actively excluding any women not assigned female gender at birth.
This deplorable transphobia flies in the face of true feminism and dangerously ignores our need to stand in solidarity. By subscribing to a narrow binary of gender identity, Vogel tragically perpetuates the kind of marginalization that she maintains the festival was created to eliminate. Since Nancy Burkholder — a trans woman — was ejected from the festival in 1991 transgender activists have worked hard to raise awareness of “The Intention” and its harmful effects.
This year an actor and comedian has led an exodus from MichFest in protest to the policy. Lea DeLaria, a strong advocate for all of the LGBT community throughout her career, has gained recent attention starring in the Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black. After signing up to perform at MichFest she learned about The Intention from co-star Laverne Cox — one of the most visible transgender entertainers. Not content to just walk away, DeLaria issued a strong statement rebuking Vogel and MichFest for their shameful practices. She also noted some of the more dramatic protests mounted by activists outside the festival, including physical harassment and bomb threats.
After over 30 years of gay activism and as an out, proud member of the LGBTQ Community, I do not wish to be a party to infighting. We queers need to find a way to stop this fighting and work together towards our common goal. Both sides of the Michigan Women’s Music Festival dispute refuse to listen to each other. Due to their unyielding stance, I am withdrawing from the festival. I truly look forward to the time when all LGBTQ stand as one. Perhaps then we can collectively laugh at how fucked up is it when I’M the voice of reason.
Nicely done, Lea. Other performers have joined the boycott, including out folk duo Indigo Girls, poet Andrea Gibson, and rockers Hunter Valentine.