Years of words from MichFest’s Lisa VogelTrans Progressive, Bottom Highlights Thursday, August 14th, 2014
Commentary: Trans Progressive
There’s been many words spoken by Lisa Vogel, the founder and 39-year key organizer of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival about the festival’s women-born-women (WBW) policy. This year, she’s referring to the policy as an intention, but six of one, half-a-dozen of the other – she’s referred to the intention as policy in the past.
Members of the trans community have, for over 20 of those years, been arguing against the WBW policy.
In 1991, the policy resulted in Nancy Burkholder being denied entry into the festival. “It’s unfortunate that our choice to offer the Michigan Festival as an event for womyn-born-womyn is being construed by some as a position on the merits of people making individual choices on how to live,” co-wrote Vogel in a letter printed in the publication GCN. “When it was clear this summer there was a known transsexual man attending the event, the festival security staff dealt with it as respectfully as possible.”
Vogel had no distress in identifying a trans woman as a man. Her propensity for referring to trans women as men goes at least as far back as 1977 when she signed onto a letter to Olivia Records demanding they fire Sandy Stone, a transsexual woman. “We are writing concerning your decision to employ Sandy Stone as your recording engineer and sound technician,” a June 1977 copy of that letter that published in Sister stated. “We feel that it was and is irresponsible of you to have presented this person as a woman to the women’s community when in fact he is a post-operative transsexual.”
“Some of us have already [worked with Sandy Stone] without the knowledge that this person was not a woman,” the letter Vogel signed added.
By August 1999, the policy was somewhat relaxed. The festival organizers stated “We do not and will not question any individual’s gender,” but were then aghast that six members of the Transexual Menace/Camp Trans bought tickets and attended the event. “As commonality organizers, we operate from a position of trust, expecting that people will try to do the right thing, rather than policing people to catch them doing the wrong thing,” said Vogel in an Aug. 28, 1999 media release. “We do not and will not question any individual’s gender. We hoped that the Transsexual Menace organizers would honor that trust and respect the intention of this event.”
“We are aware that some individuals associated with Camp Trans have not respected the Land as womyn’s space,” the press release went on to say. “We know that many of you [festival attendees] are angry about this, and have questions about whether this is a change of festival policy. There is no change in festival policy, politics or intention regarding womyn’s space. We too are angry that this has been disrespected, and we are dealing with it now the best we can. We want you to know that we always have been and always will be committed to the festival as womyn’s space.”
Self-segregation is what Vogel elegantly stated she wanted in August 2006. In a media release, Vogel quoted what she wrote in a letter to a trans woman named Lorraine who attended the festival. “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 womon born womon is a valid and honorable gender identity.”
This year, Vogel stated trans womyn are women, but then appropriated the term “gender identity” from the trans movement to differentiate trans women from the WBW welcome at MichFest. In an Aug. 1 Facebook statement, Vogel first stated as a bullet point that “We believe that transgender womyn are womyn,” but in the very next bullet point pivoted to female in stating “We believe that females experience a unique, historical and debilitating oppression as a class under patriarchy.”
Which brings us back to 1977 and 1991. Joanna Russ once wrote a feminist science fiction novel entitled The Female Man; Lisa Vogel’s fiction no doubt would be called The Male Womon. She won’t actually say trans women are males, but it’s clear that’s what she believes.
Vogel’s bigotry these days is couched in flowery words, but everyone knows actions speak louder than words.
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