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Confronting discrimination with peaceful direct action

Commentary: Trans Progressive

In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Martin Luther King Jr. stated: “The nonviolent resisters can summarize their message in the following simple terms: we will take direct action against injustice despite the failure of governmental and other official agencies to act first.

“We will not obey unjust laws or submit to unjust practices. We will do this peacefully, openly, cheerfully because our aim is to persuade. We adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is a community at peace with itself. We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts. We will always be willing to talk and seek fair compromise, but we are ready to suffer when necessary and even risk our lives to become witnesses to truth as we see it.”

Working for peace, as Martin Luther King Jr. saw it, included nonviolent direct action. Talk is good; fair compromise is good, but there are times where achieving what suffragist Alice Paul called “ordinary equality” means direct action and suffering, and sometimes even loss of life.

How much prejudice and discrimination then by members of one subcommunity of the LGBT community toward other subcommunities do we tolerate? How much prejudice and discrimination then do we tolerate from minority communities that intersect with the LGBT community, such as members of the feminist community.

The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (MWMF) expressed festival attendance policy is a womyn-born-womyn (WBW) policy. The policy is one that is based on the premise that trans women aren’t really womyn because they weren’t, by their definition, really women who belong in women’s spaces.

The last iteration of the MWMF policy by Lisa Vogel, a lesbian feminist who is the lead organizer for the festival, came in a 2006 press release in which she stated:

“I deeply desire healing in our communities, and I can see and feel that you want that too. I would love for you and the other organizers of Camp Trans to find the place in your hearts and politics to support and honor space for womyn who have had the experience of being born and living their life as womyn. I ask that you respect that womyn born womyn is a valid and honorable gender identity. I also ask that you respect that womyn born womyn deeply need our space – as do all communities who create space to gather, whether that be womyn of color, trans womyn or trans men. I wish you well; I want healing, and I believe this is possible between our communities, but not at the expense of deeply needed space for womyn born womyn.”

Healing will come only when prejudice and discrimination against trans women by a larger intersection of minority populations by the festival leaders ends.

Scheduled 2013 MWMF performer Andrea Gibson withdrew from the event this year when she learned about the discriminatory policy. The Indigo Girls put out a press release this past week indicating they will perform this year at the festival, but it will be their last performance at the festival. In their press release, they wrote the following:

“We understand that there are many folks who feel passionately about these issues, but we encourage people on both sides to act peacefully when they express themselves. There is nothing to be gained from hateful rhetoric or aggressive actions.”

Yes, there is something to be gained by peaceful, direct actions which they appear to be identifying as “aggressive.” If the Indigo Girls choose to perform at the festival, they should bring transgender women to the festival who have fought for community civil rights.

The Indigo Girls should pay attention to Martin Luther King Jr. on how to peacefully struggle against prejudice and discrimination – that they fully acknowledge is unacceptable. Living up to the courage of their convictions require more than just words alone: it requires peaceful action.



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Posted by on Apr 11, 2013. Filed under Trans Progressive. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

6 Comments for “Confronting discrimination with peaceful direct action”

  1. This is a private event, and they have a right to decide who can attend. They don’t want “trans women” there, and they should learn to live with that. More than a few post-op transsexual women have attended without a problem, but that really is not the issue. The issue is those who wish to hang on to their maleness by being “openly trans,” who want to rub people’s noses in their choices, and who enjoy seeking attention.

    The demands of transgender people to attend MWMF is comparable to me demanding to be admitted to the Bohemian Grove. I don’t meet the criteria, and I accept that I don’t belong. Perhaps an even better analogy would be an African-American man demanding admission as a member of the Klan. If these people did force their way in, it would not be a pleasant experience, they would not be welcome, and it would not make them magically become “womyn.”. It would just make them invaders. And they should realize that simply confirms what those opposed to their attendance believe them to be.

    • This is just as wrong headed as a bunch of clansmen whining and crying about being barred from attending a prayer meeting in a black woman’s home. The transgenders have nothing in common with a born female, especially a group that is predominantly hard core feminists.

      Once again autumn you pervert the words of MLK, you were not there, you are too young to be politically aware. Growing up in a upper middle white home in the LA aria and being the child of someone who worked in the Hollywood film industry, you really have no clue and don’t even have the credibility to buy a clue.

      Anne

      • A Woman, Period

        In the end, it really comes down to a combination of our analogies. While I would be surprised if those attending a prayer meeting in a black woman’s house would hold the extreme animosity towards the klansmen that the “womyn” at MWMF would hold towards a groups of invading “men” I do imagine that those at the prayer meeting would probably feel about as threatened by the presence of the klansmen. Then again, they might well hold a similar disdain for them.

        And yes, I agree, Sandeen should be ashamed of trying to co-opt Dr. King in such a manner.

    • The people who run this event have the right to ban trans womyn, and the people who oppose their bigotry have the right to express that opposition in any nonviolent manner they wish.

      The idea that there is any experience that cis womyn as a whole share and trans womyn do not is a harmful fiction that erases the lived experiences of womyn, cis and trans alike. Perpetuating this fiction is antifeminist, as it is harmful to women, and therefore the policy banning trans womyn is antifeminist.

  2. A Woman, Period

    Well, I suppose it can be argued that the transgender extremists have a right to make claims of bigotry (though I actually see those claims as basically false).

    But, I am sorry, your second claim is demonstrably false, and more than a little absurd. Let’s see…

    Aside from actually being female from birth, and not having a penis between their legs (which is sufficient to refute your claim right there), what other experiences might a person born female experience that a transgender, or quite honestly, even a transsexual might not?

    Well, for starters, starting menstruation. (And please, don’t give me some lame load of crap about how some women don’t menstruate,etc.)

    After the start of menstruation, having to consider the fact that pregnancy is possible.

    Menstrual cramps.

    Being socialized as a girl.

    Being raised as a girl.

    Not being labeled as a male for much, if not all, of their early life.

    In the case of the vast majority of transgender males, who are not remotely transsexual…even if it is increasingly popular to lie and claim one is, the brain is sexually differentiated as male, and they share NOTHING in common with women, other than a superficial similarity in clothing tastes, and in reality not even that (most transgender males dress in a manner that no real woman ever would).

    Actually, to claim that transgender males and “cis womyn” or women in general, do not have experiences that are not shared by “trans women” is erasure of the experiences of both women in general, and transgender males, and yes, even true transsexuals.

    I am a woman, albeit one of transsexual history, and I would not make such a claim.

    That one would make such a claim has a lot to do with why the radfems have such a negative view of transgender males. And it has a lot to with why I do not identify as ‘transgender.”

  3. I’m curious…. Would MLK have spoken in terms of “crushing the belief systems” of others? Is that really a example of “peaceful direct action?”

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