Confronting discrimination with peaceful direct actionTrans Progressive Thursday, April 11th, 2013
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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